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TIFF 2014: Romanian Shorts II: Start Anew World; A Walk; Dying from a Wound of Love


Florian-Rareş Tileagă, translated by Claudia Moscovici

iunie 2014
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That state of euphoria, when you see that Romanians can do what foreigners can and that, at last, we enter the ranks of the much-praised West, is in fact the state of being you experience multiple times when you watch Romanian film shorts. And, still, from too much national humility, we forget that maybe we can do things much better than foreigners, that we beat them a long time ago (in specific instances, not as a whole), and that we have good reasons to feel proud of ourselves. The films below, even if they're not big-budget and even if they're not the epitome of the art of cinema are, nonetheless, important films. I'd call them "checkpoints" because they mark important, indisputable landmarks of quality in Romanian cinema. It's as if once they made these movies, there's no turning back. What follows is a continual upgrade.

As I wrote in an earlier article about Romanian film shorts, I'm very curious to see how, when and where we'll hear about these titles. Unfortunately, we've become used to seeing them presented by film festivals. We need them. It's as if we wanted to consume more, but we can only do it with film stamps, like back in the day. Rationed films, as it were...

Start Anew World / O Lume Nouă (Directed by Luiza Pârvu, România - Hungary - SUA, 2014). The year 1908, the epoch of the first emigration of Romanians across the ocean. A Transylvanian arrives in Pennsylvania in the house of a friend, her husband's cousin. Their forbidden love prevents them from speaking to each other naturally. Luiza Parvu's film fits into precisely this "space" of stunted and inexpressible things that, from the start, creates a climactic tension. What is not said is therefore more powerful than what is formally articulated. The two actors construct such a dense and credible story that this film short seems to be taken from an excellent feature film. Maybe some will not appreciate the affected tone of the story, similar to a soap-opera. However, for what it wants to express, Luiza Pârvu's film short is real cinema. And it's a great example of good use of film equipment, which exploits colorfully the details of movement, scenography and gestures, somewhat in the style of Caranfil. 

A Walk / Plimbare (directed by Mihaela Popescu, România, 2012). An average day in the neighborhood. The elderly lady from the first floor dresses nicely, puts on some perfume, goes to the grocery store and, after she buys some apples, makes an incredible proposition to the vendor. She wants to feel alive again. This kind of story is exactly what would be impossible to create without culminating in the ridiculous, or in excess, or in tiring psychologizing. Somehow, this doesn't happen here. Mihaela Popescu almost entirely eliminates replies and replaces them with grimaces, half-gestures, sounds, decorative details and costumes. The result is a psychological story, strong, with a beginning and an ending, with hinted and assumed nuances. I think it's a mature approach in cinema, which is welcome after the "foundation" of naturalist minimalism situated, gradually, upon New Wave cinema.

Kowalski (directed by Andrei Creţulescu, România, 2014). An unpaid debt, a debtor that plays with fire, and a lender who can no longer wait. Everything happens in a short period of time, under the light of a lightbulb, evoking punishment scenes from the Western-noir tradition. There's a lot of dialogue and power struggle in this film short lasting only 18 minutes, where the wheel turns depending on the force of will. Real power dominates the illusion of strength and the one who seemed on top is instantly put in his place. The final reckoning seems to lie in wait after each exchange of this tension-filled screenplay, written with an obvious penchant for cool, comical, and aggressive replies. It calls to mind, be it in passing, similar examples of bloody cinema such as the excellent short Tatăl meu e cel mai tare (directed by Radu Potcoavă) or the famous Furia (directed by Radu Muntean). And, without exaggerating our patriotism, Kowalski is a small, Romanian sample of Tarantino: with an acting interplay more cutting than the action itself, a sample that we'd like to see expanded to a feature film. It's like when you find in the street a BMW tire and you'd like to see... the rest of the car.

Dying from a Wound of Love / Să mori de dragoste rănită (directed by Iulia Rugină, România, 2014). He wants to slash his wrist, she to jump from a window. Both, to the music of Angela Similea. I dare not say more about this little film, half musical, half romantic comedy with dark humor. It's not the plot that counts here, but rather the theatrical effects that personalize the electrifying love between the two protagonists. Through symmetries forcibly created by dramatic situations, through antitheses and parallel planes, the director Iulia Rugină takes, I believe, another step forward with this narrative experiment. A film that can pass for "a little toy". What used to be realism with some comical situations in Love Building and Sink has become here a story with simultaneously parodic, dark and romantic scenes. It's an agreeable combination, well orchestrated and relatively rare in its stylistic freedom for Romanian cinema.

Descarcă sinopsisurile filmelor, TIFF 2014 aici..



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