Nae Caranfil's Closer to the Moon
The Romanians are returning to the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema will open its 8th edition on November 29 with the World Premiere of Nae Caranfil's Closer to the Moon starring Vera Farmiga, the true story of a robbery at the Romanian National Bank that was staged to look like a film shoot. The series spotlights the latest in Romanian filmmaking, including features, documentaries and shorts, along with retrospectives of Romanian filmmakers, special programs, panels and a book launch.
Among the other titles on tap for the event, which runs through December 4 at Film Society before moving to the Jacob Burns Film Center December 5 – 10, is Calin Peter Netzer's Child's Pose, which is Romania's entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar consideration. Corneliu Porumboiu's When Evening Falls on Burcharest or Metabolism (NYFF51) will close out the series. Other highlights include Adrian Sitaru's third film Domestic, box-office hit Love Building by first-timer Iulia Rugină and two feature-length documentaries: the bittersweet Here… I Mean There by Laura Căpățână-Juller (Best Romanian Film at the Transylvania International Film Festival) and the provocative The București Experiment by Tom Wilson, one of Romania's first “mockumentaries.”
Other speical screenings include Cristi Puiu’s Three Exercises of Interpretation, which emerged from an acting workshop led by the award-winning director of The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu, and the unique visual campaign of the 2013 Transilvania International Film Festival, which includes 20 clips directed by Puiu starring Making Waves special guest Luminița Gheorghiu.
This year's festival will also include a retrospective of Porumboiu's work. In a recent New York Times article trumping “20 Directors to Watch,” A.O. Scott wrote: “Mr. Porumboiu is a master of the long static shot, the weary argument and the deadpan existential joke. He fixes his camera on the struggles of minor potentates and midlevel functionaries—a TV host in 12:08; a detective and his bosses in Police, Adjective; a movie director in When Evening Falls on Bucharest, or Metabolism—and divines the secrets of his society, and of our vain, pathetic species, in the smallest details of speech and behavior.” Porumboiu's complete works will screen across the festival and he will attend the Closing Night screening.
Calin Peter Netzer's Child's Pose
Also attending this year is actress Luminița Gheorghiu, winner of the 2006 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu and the star of Child's Pose. Director Nae Caranfil (The Rest is Silence) will join the festival opening for the World Premiere of his latest film, Closer to the Moon. Other guests include Tom Wilson, writer and director of The București Experiment, Eugen Lumezianu and Oana Răsuceanu, actor and screenwriter, respectively, of Love Building. Štěpán Hulík, screenwriter of Agnieska Holland’s Burning Bush (NYFF51) and author of Cinema of Forgetting on Czechoslovak cinema, and film curator Irena Kovarova will join the conversation about film and propaganda. And Dominique Nasta, Professor of Film Studies at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, will join the festival for the launch of her recently published book: Contemporary Romanian Cinema. The History of an Unexpected Miracle, the first in-depth analysis of many essential films ranging from the silent period to the present day.
“From its rich and under-explored past to its still-thriving present, Romanian cinema remains among the most vital in the world,” said Dennis Lim, Film Society Director of Cinematheque Programming. “We are very pleased to welcome back our Romanian showcase Making Waves for one of its strongest editions yet.”
Corina Șuteu, President of Making Waves, commented: “This year, Making Waves represents for its initiators a landmark, as a Romanian film season striving to make a strong statement about the absolute need for freedom of artistic expression in times when propaganda is more than exclusively the instrument of authoritarian systems. The 2013 edition of Making Waves is also modestly dedicated to the Save Roșia Montană movement of peaceful protests all over the world.”
The program, co-hosted by the Romanian Film Initiative in collaboration with the Transilvania Internation Film Festival, was hailed by The Wall Street Journal, who noted: “The annual weeklong survey [has] helped define and establish the southeastern European country as a stronghold of socially incisive, independently minded personal cinema.”
Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema films, descriptions and schedules follow (all films in Romanian with English subtitles unless otherwise noted):
Closer To the Moon (Opening Night, World Premiere)
Nae Caranfil, 2013, Romania-USA; 110m
The true account of a group of high-ranking Jewish members of the nomenklatura, who, in 1959, staged what was to become known as the coup of the century: They robbed Romania’s National Bank, making it look like a film shoot. And this is only the beginning. Once arrested and prosecuted, they were forced to reenact their parts in the heist for a propaganda movie. Despite its tragic aspect, this incredible story, forever shrouded in mystery, gets an unexpectedly light treatment. Vera Farmiga, Mark Strong, and Game of Thrones’ Harry Lloyd star. In English.
In person: director Nae Caranfil
**FRI. NOV 29, 6:30 pm, WRT
Child's Pose (Centerpiece, New York Premiere)
Călin Peter Netzer, 2013, Romania, 112m
Winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale and a smashing box-office hit at home, Netzer’s third film brilliantly deals with the mother of all moral dilemmas – faced by a parent willing to do everything in order to save her son, who killed a child in a car accident. The tight script makes things especially complicated, as the relation between mother and son is cruelly tormented. Playing the domineering yet strangely sympathetic mother – who might be the victim after all – Luminița Gheorghiu (the nurse with a heart of gold in The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu) is pitch perfect, walking on a tightrope. A Zeitgeist Films Release. Child's Pose will open at Film Forum on February 19.
In person: actress Luminița Gheorghiu
**SAT. NOV 30, 9:00 pm, FBT
Iulia Rugină's Love Building
When Evening Falls on Bucharest Or Metabolism (Closing Night)
Corneliu Porumboiu, 2013, Romania-France, 89m
This rigorously structured new film from Corneliu Porumboiu takes an interestingly oblique look at filmmaking. We don’t see the process itself, but a succession of exchanges that take place when the camera isn’t rolling: dinners after work between the director-protagonist Paul and his actress, Alina, a rehearsal, an exchange between Paul and his tough producer Magda, a car ride through Bucharest at night. Every scene is covered in one meticulously executed take. Porumboiu’s approach, which the filmmaker himself has likened to that of Hong Sang-soo, allows us to concentrate on the rhythms of the everyday – silences, pauses, hesitations; the anodyne discomfort of making conversation; the strangeness of so many temporary relationships between exhausted, edgy individuals. When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism (the title will make sense at the end) is so precisely composed that its very construction has a crystalline beauty. A Cinema Guild Release.
In person: director Corneliu Porumboiu
**TUE. DEC 3, 6:00 pm, WRT
Love Building (U.S. Premiere)
Iulia Rugină, 2013, Romania, 85m
In this charming low-budget independent comedy that has “American remake” written all over it, 14 couples enroll in a camp designed to mend broken relationships, but things get quickly out of hand. One of the reasons is that the 7-day program is run by three young men who have emotional problems of their own, so they may not be the right trainers after all. It is noteworthy that this light and entertaining debut is actually the result of an acting workshop. Except for the leading trio (played by the only well-known actors in Love Building, who also run a private acting school in real life), everybody else in the cast is a student.
In person: Actor Eugen Lumezianu and screenwriter Oana Răsuceanu
**SUN. DEC 1, 5:15 pm, FBT
Adrian Sitaru, 2012, Romania-Germany, 85m
There’s a tender and humorous touch to this light collection of tales about people who eat the animals they love, and the animals that love people unconditionally. A rabbit, a cat, a dog, a hen, and a pigeon share screen time with a wonderful ensemble of actors playing the residents of an apartment building, revealing the very small distance that separates us humans from animals. Despite a certain cruelty or disdain for the animals, the eventual love one finds in an animal companion is wonderful to witness in Sitaru’s masterfully written and choreographed film.
**TUE. DEC 3, 8:30 pm, WRT
The Bucharest Experiment/Experimentul Bucuresti (U.S. Premiere)
Tom Wilson, 2013, Romania, 68m
The less one knows about this clever and disturbing film (or documentary?), the better. Directed by first-timer Tom Wilson, a British journalist living in Bucharest, The București Experiment daringly explores what really happened in 1989, when Romania suffered a coup d’état. The secret police knew about it and had time to prepare for the big change, setting in motion an experiment in psychological engineering. Following a participant to the experiment and his former partner (who used to be a famous pop singer), Wilson goes way beyond any expectations in the way he actually interrogates the transition from Communism to Capitalism. It’s true, he plays a dangerous game with the audience, but to say why he wins would mean to spoil the startling revelations of his film.
In person: Director Tom Wilson
**SAT. NOV 30, 5:00 pm, FBT & TUE. DEC 3, 2:00 pm, WRT
Cristi Puiu's The Three Exercises of Interpretation
Here… I Mean There (U.S. Premiere)
Laura Căpățână-Juller, 2012, Romania 73m
This deeply felt documentary is a brief but intimate portrait of a family split up by circumstances that leave little room for a brighter future. Ani and Sanda are two girls left with their grandparents because their parents abandoned them (like many Romanians) to go to Spain to earn money to build a house back home. Ten years later, the family is still broken and the house is far from being finished—but somehow, this is not as depressing as it sounds. It’s a bittersweet coming-of-age story, not without its funny moments, infused with nostalgia for a life the family should have had.
**SAT. NOV 30, 7:15 pm, FBT & TUE. DEC 3, 4:00 pm, WRT
New Romanian Shorts. Various; 116M (Free Screening)
The Chekhov-like Shadow of a Cloud by Radu Jude leads this eclectic bunch of seven shorts that also includes the Romanian answer to Kill Bill 12 Minutes and the hypnotic video-art Matriarch, featuring a striking Luminița Gheorghiu. Complete list below.
**SAT. NOV 30, 1:30-5:30 pm (Continuos) & SUN. DEC 1, 7:15 pm, AMP
12 minutes (12 minute), 2013, d. Nicolae Constantin Tănase
Bad Penny, 2013, d. Andrei Cretulescu
In the Fishbowl (În acvariu), 2013, d. Tudor Cristian Jurgiu
Matriarch, 2013, d. Nemethi Barna
My Baby, 2013, Luiza Pârvu
The Pill of Happiness (Pastila fericirii), 2012, d. Cecilia Felméri
Shadow of a Cloud (O umbră de nor), 2013, d. Radu Jude
Three Exercises of Interpretation (Special Screening, U.S. Premiere)
Cristi Puiu, France, 2013, 157m
This trilogy (The Cat is On the Chair, The Mouse is Under the Table, and The Monkey is On the Branch) focuses on a group of friends gathered for lunch and engaged in rich conversation covering life’s most complex moral topics. It emerged from an acting workshop led by director Cristi Puiu (The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu, 2005) in Toulouse and inspired by Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov’s treatise Three Conversations. In French with English subtitles.
**SUN. DEC 1, 7:45 pm, FBT
Cristi Puiu Directs The 2013 TIFF Trailers Starring Luminita Gheorghiu; 30M (Free Screening)
In 2013, director Cristi Puiu was given carte blanche in creating the visual campaign of the Transilvania International Film Festival. Teaming with actress Luminița Gheorghiu, who was the face of the 2013 festival, he delivered not one, but 20 intriguing clips. Watching them in sequence, they actually work like a short film which could be called A Woman’s Journey, Brief Encounters or even… The Red Shoes. The beauty of this strangely elliptical story is that it is open to multiple interpretations.
**SUN. DEC 1, 3:00-4:30 pm & TUE. DEC 3, 7:00-8:30 pm (Continuous), AMP
Štefan Uher's The Sun in a Net
Special Program: Creative Freedom Through Cinema
The Transylvanians Trilogy
The Prophet, the Gold and the Transylvanians is the first installment in the so-called Transylvanians’ trilogy, a hugely popular series made in the ‘80s. It’s a rare treat: a popular Red Western (or “Eastern”) shot in Romania, telling the story of two Transylvanians who go to America – to the mining town of Cedar City, Utah – to persuade their brother to come back home, only to discover that he is the most wanted person in the region. The second film, The Actress, the Dollars and the Transylvanians, continues the American adventures of the three Transylvanian brothers, throwing in some more gunfights, bar brawls, train ambushes, bandits, Indians and a flamboyant cabaret actress. The last part of the trilogy, The Baby, the Oil and the Transylvanians, follows the three brothers on their way home, but having to settle in Swanton City, where the eldest of them finds oil while digging for water. The unavoidable clash between languages, music styles, and mentalities is as fun, campy and unusual as it gets. Propaganda films in communist Romania were never this inventive. In English and Romanian, with English subtitles.
The Prophet, The Gold and the Transylvanians (New 35mm print)
Dan Pița, 1979, Romania, 98m
**FRI. NOV 29, 9:30 pm, WRT
The Actress, The Dollars and the Transylvanians (New 35 mm print)
Mircea Veroiu, 1981, Romania, 72m
**SAT. NOV 30, 12:30 pm, FBT
The Oil, The Baby and the Transylvanians (New 35 mm print)
Dan Pița, 1982, Romania, 108m
**SAT. NOV 30, 2:45 pm, FBT
The Sun In a Net
Štefan Uher, 1962, Czechoslovakia, 90m
Preceding the mid-60s vanguard known as the Czechoslovak New Wave, the second film by Slovak director Štefan Uher did much to push the boundaries of acceptable Socialist Realism. The episodic narrative follows Fajolo (Marián Bielik) and Bela (Jana Beláková), a casual teenage couple at the end of the school year. As Fajolo heads to a mandatory work-camp for the summer, Bela grapples with the claustrophobia of her tense family life. As their lives overlap despite their separation, an existential portrait of this particular time begins to emerge. In Slovak with English subtitles.
**SUN. DEC 1, 1:00 pm, FBT
Larks On a String
Jirí Menzel, 1969, Czechoslovakia, 100m
Jirí Menzel’s (Closely Watched Trains, 1966) absurdist satire of authoritarian reeducation, the film manages to combine political critique with audacious celebrations of liberation. While filmed during the Prague Spring of 1968, which saw a loosening of authoritarian controls over Czechoslovak citizens, by the time of the film’s completion the Soviet Union had invaded the nation. The film was banned at the time, to be released only in 1990. In Czech with English subtitles.
**SUN. DEC 1, 3:00 pm, FBT
Panel Conversation (Free Event)
Director Nae Caranfil (Closer to the moon) will be joined by film historian Dominique Nasta (author of the recent Contemporary Romanian Cinema. The History of an Unexpected Miracle), screenwriter Štepán Hulík (Agnieszka Holland’s Burning Bush), also author of Cinema of Forgetting on Czechoslovak cinema during the post-1968 ‘normalization period,’ and film curator Irena Kovarova in a conversation about the relationship between arts and politics, and the use of film as a propaganda tool then and now.
**SUN. DEC 1, 5:00 pm, AMP
Corneliu Porumboiu's When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism
Corneliu Porumboiu Retrospective
12:08 East of Buchares
Corneliu Porumboiu, 2006, Romania, 89m
Winner of the 2006 Camera D’Or prize, this sociopolitical satire focuses on a group of characters who commemorate the 16th anniversary of Ceaușescu’s fall on on December 22, 2005. “12:08” refers to the exact time of day in which Ceaușescu fled, whereas the original Romanian title roughly translates as “Was There or Was There Not?” (a revolution in our town) – the central question being hotly debated throughout the film. What seems like a formally simple and straightforward story is actually a sophisticated and wryly funny reflection on the scope of the Romanian Revolution of 1989 that ended communism in Romania, and how even recent historical events take on shape and meaning according to how they explain or justify the present.
**MON. DEC 2, 1:00 pm, FBT
Corneliu Porumboiu, 2009, Romania, 115m
This beautifully acted, modern morality play features what may be movie history’s most absurdly protracted police sting operation, designed to catch a high school student selling drugs. Cristi, the cop assigned to the case, realizes the futility of the mission, though his attempts to convince his bureaucratic superiors meet with stern reminders not to question the letter of the law. But letters and laws—of both the legal and grammatical kind—are very much on Porumboiu’s mind as the long, nearly wordless scenes of the film’s first half give way to a shadow-stopping final act of Stoppardian verbosity in which cop and police chief (an unforgettable Vlad Ivanov) engage in an exhilarating verbal tennis match about conscience, morality and the true meaning of language.
**MON. DEC 2, 3:00 pm, FBT
When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism
See Closing Night above
The Short Films of Corneliu Porumboiu
Much has been said about Corneliu Porumboiu’s three features to date, but it’s always rewarding to go back in time and search for more clues. Here’s the chance to see three of his short films in order to fully understand his personal style and vision about cinema: from the hilarious Gone with the Wine (2002) and A Trip to City (2003) – which won a prize in Cannes – to the haunting Liviu’s Dream (2004), which screened in the Forum section of the Berlinale.
**SAT. NOV 30, 6:00-8:20 pm (Continuous), AMP
Book Launch: Contemporary Romanian Cinema. The History of an Unexpected Miracle (Free Event)
Dominique Nasta, Professor of Film Studies at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, will be present for the launch of her recently published book – Contemporary Romanian Cinema. The History of an Unexpected Miracle (Wallflower Press, 2013). Bringing to light hidden gems, this compelling and extremely well-documented book draws connections between Romanian cinema's past and present, answering the most difficult question: how was the miracle of the New Wave possible? Nasta's analysis is simply the best work written so far on this subject. Romanian cinema, old and new, rightfully deserves this considered treatment.
**SUN. DEC 1, 6:30 pm, AMP