. Saturday, 7th June .
PASSO DOBLE [?/10]
Pas in doi : Romania 1995 : Dan PITA : 110m : seen at Cinema Arta
An intense film which I was sadly not able to appreciate in any real way as the English subtitles disappeared soon after the beginning, to reappear then vanish again later. Visually stunning, set mainly in a starkly monochrome factory, its leading character is a restless young man who does not seem able to choose between two girls he thinks he loves. He is also a fencer, and in this mode his elegant white-clad body is in deep, clean contrast to the utilitarian rusty browns of his work place and his scruffy flat, which he shares with his more down-to-earth workmate, who boxes.
So contrasts all round, between the two very different men, between the two women, one free-spirited and intense, one warm and dependable, a single mother, and between the ugliness of work and the other-worldliness represented by fencing. The music of the film cleverly brings the two worlds together, melding the sublime sound of Haydn choral music into the jarring roar of the factory – unfortunately the sound quality was not great and the result was probably harder to take than intended.
But, and this is what was not evident, through my inability to understand much of the dialogue, it also seems to be highly political film, as it was reportedly banned by the communist party a year after opening. As it was, the experience of watching was gruelling and baffling. It happens at film festivals.
Pescuit sportiv : Romania 2007 : Adrian SITARU : 80m : Cinema Arta
A smart little 3-handed thriller made on a small budget, with liberal use of hand-held camera that maintains a degree of suspense and menace in contrast to the peaceful landscape in which it mostly takes place. Lovers Lubi and Mihai are already in a relationship crisis as they drive into the countryside for an air-clearing picnic, and it's about to get worse. They accidentally knock down a prostitute by the side of the country road, think she's dead, begin to dump her, then she wakes up. She can remember nothing, so they play innocent and pretend to have just found her.
Apparently quite a simple girl and eager to spend some time with her new 'friends', she goes along with them to a lake, where in the course of a sleepy afternoon she discovers their secrets, including the truth about her accident. Unease rules, but she still appears the naive innocent. Then she goes off for a walk by the lake… Lubi and Miheal think they're off the hook, and the future looks fine again. Three good performances in unforgiving close-up and a fine economic script make this uncomfortable, compulsive viewing.
CONSTANTIN AND ELENA [7/10]
Constantin si Elena : Romania/Spain 2008 : Andrei DASCALESCU : 103m : Cinema Victoria
A very likeable, very warm documentary made by debut director Dascalescu about his ageing grandparents who live in a village in the Romanian countryside. Fifty-four years into their marriage the couple reminisce, sing, josh each other, and get on with their daily, essential tasks, smoking the sausages, weaving, and singing in the church choir. She can no longer get about very well beyond the house, but he still plays an active life in the village church and reports back about activities, after she has sent him off looking suitably smart. Like a young wife she stays awake to hear what he's got to tell.
A wonderful hymn to contentment and sassiness in old age, the film looks gorgeous too, the couple's home with its vibrant colour and mix of the exquisite – the wall-hangings Elena has made over the decades – and the banal, worn, basic household utensils. It's notoriously trickier to express joy, optimism, love, in art than the darker side of life. This triumphantly succeeds.
official website : www.constantinandelena.com
11th June, 2009
all films seen in Cluj, Romania, at the 8th Transilvania International Film Festival
public screenings – complimentary press tickets
Sheila Seacroft's dispatches
1 : Tues.2.June : Everyone Else; Revanche; Quiet Chaos; Thomas
2 : Sat.6.June : About Elly; Fluke; Machan; Tears of April; The Possibility of an Island
3 : Wed.10.June : Apocalypse On Wheels; Australia; Awakening From a Dream; Weddings, Music & Videos – plus report on directors vs homeless football game
4 : Thu.11. June : Constantin and Elena; Hooked; Passo Doble
5 : Mon.15.June : Police, Adjective and Antichrist