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Cannes 2010: Those Romanians are at it again

May 13, 2010 |  9:22 am

Romanians can't make a bad film. It's, like, illegal in their country. Or at least not in their DNA.

Over the last four years, filmmakers from the small Eastern European nation have swept into the south of France every May and put far bigger, more storied film cultures to shame, the U.S. and the fiercely proud host country among them. It started primarily with the critics' favorite "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" in 2006, continued the following year with the powerful abortion drama "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" (which won the Palme d'Or) and hasn't abated since, with last year's "Police, Adjective" and "Tales from the Golden Age" worthy entries in the so-called Romanian New Wave.

This year the streak continues -- and perhaps gets even stronger -- with "Tuesday, After Christmas," an infidelity drama from a director named Radu Muntean who's been here several times before. We caught his new movie, in the festival's Un Certain Regard section, at its Thursday press screening and were close to blown away. Muntean's movie is a remarkable, pitch-perfect work, as convincing and affecting a portrayal of the subtleties of modern life and marriage as you'll find on the screen.

The film is peopled by little more than a married, 40-ish man named Cristi (Mimi Branescu) who's having an affair, his serious but not unsympathetic wife, their preteen daughter and the daughter's orthodontist, with whom Cristi is engaging in said extra-martial activity. Things get hairy from the start for Cristi, as he's consumed by guilt (not to mention logistical issues) in his attempts to keep the affair a secret, then get emotionally complicated as he juggles his feelings and relationships with the two women (as well as his daughter).

It all sounds very ordinary, or even pedestrian, by art-house film standards. But if cinematic genius is taking a story we think we've seen before and telling it an entirely fresh way, Muntean is ready for Mensa. There are no melodramatic hysterics of the kind you'd see in the U.S. "Terms of Endearment"-esque version of the tale; even the movie's climactic showdown feels wonderfully restrained. It's simply absorbing, authentic storytelling, with filmmaking that's distinctly stylized but never distracting. And the performances are insanely good.

No U.S. distributor has yet bought this movie (or the other, equally promising Romanian film here, "Aurora," from the same director as "Mr. Lazarescu"). While "Tuesday, After Christmas' " subject manner and style are eminently accessible to an American audience (it helps that, unlike a lot of the new Romanian cinema, this one is set not in the 1980s Communist period but the modern one, in a decidedly middle-class milieu; Romanian film characters have moved up in the world), we fear that the rocky commercial market for these kinds of dramas will scare off buyers. It won't matter. The Romanians will keep making great movies, whether or not we turn out to see them.

-- Steven Zeitchik, reporting from Cannes, France


Photo: "Tuesday, After Christmas." Credit: Cannes Film Festival

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Comments () | Archives (32)

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we love u for this article! (roumanian)

The actor who plays the main character is not Dragos Bucur, but Mimi Branescu:)

chapeau, steven and LATimes!

Thanks Steven. Great article.

oh yes we do make bad movies, some of our directors are just big- headed douches! but the truth is that it is so hard to get the money to make a movie that most of the times only the ones that are at least decent make it. that being said, I can't wait to see this one. (and for the years to come, remember to follow another one: Stuck on Christmas)

I do agree with you. Art is in Romanian blood. Good job, guys!

Multumim! :) great article, Steven!

wait and see Wedding in Bessarabia :)

Proud to be Romanian!

A really nice review, you convinced me to watch the movie!


Romanians also got the Silver Bear this year in Berlin, with a cast of 20-year old actors and some real convicts in a Romanian prison! The movie is called ”When I want to whistle, I whistle”.

great review


Thank you for your kind appreciations regarding romanian movie makers. I am a proudly romanian and i hope the america cineasts will remember to make movies that makes you think harder instead of the cheap hollywood bang bang ones.

"small Eastern European country"? I don't think so. Especially when it comes to brilliant minds and souls.

romania is a paradox. and will continue to be so for a long long time.

I'm romanian, and let me tell you, Policeman, Adjective sucks. It has nothing. The real police wouldn't behave that way, the characters have no depth, and half of that movie shows the main character walking around a poor town. Frankly, you all loved the decor, because it shows we live in poverty, and you don't.
Moral drama, my asthma. And the rest of those movies are mostly crap too.


Hope to get these movies soon on Netflix. So far, only "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" is there...

I love this articles. And most of all, I love these Romanians. I am so proude!!! There are so many people like them in Romania : gifted, passioned, brights, hard workers, spirituals, funny, inteligents. It is such a lost for Romania and for the world that you are not enough informations for knowing us better. Romanian politics is not Romania!

we're taking it step by step... always proudly to be roumanian...thx steven for the review...

In Romania, we get shot if we don't make good movies :( Lol, just kidding. But the not so funny part is that most of these things aren't movies, but life stories. Those things in those movies really happen here in Romania.

Nice review. I am very curious about the movie now and I hope I will have the chance to see it soon. Romania has an amazing culture and I am sure due to more transparency it will become more and more known world wide. Congratulations from Norway and best wishes for the future!!

Hai Romania!

It's because of stuff like this I'm proud to be Romanian :)

Oh and just a reminder... the movie industry in Romania isn't mass-producing ten movies / week like Hollywood, so we literally can't afford to make too many sucky movies.

Great article by a fair journalist! I'm Canadian and romanian movies are very appreciated by the canadian public , in contrast with our own movies centred mostly on aberrant sexual subjects. Romanian movies are made with a minimum amount of money ( compared with our standards ) and this is the magic: to be able to make cinematographic art just from pure talent . Romanian cinema is 's todays the best : keep it on! After so many years of communist control , the romanians are showing their talent and tenacity. Congratulations!

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