While working on my recent articles, one name kept leaping to my mind. And the fact that it is not everyone's first call when talking about Romanian comedies is a blatant injustice.
Hanno Höfer (in picture) might be better known by some for his humorous and nonconformist blues band Nightlosers. Those who have not seen them live should fix this right away because there are few Romanian bands out there that are so effortlessly entertaining and relaxed.
However, Höfer is also an accomplished director whose name sadly comes up only seldom when talking about the Romanian New Wave. Though more fond of a classical narrative style and less experimental than some of his more provocative peers, he is no less intelligent or perceptive. And always reliably tongue-in-cheek. His most recent project was the co-direction of the omnibus comedy Amintiri din epoca de aur/Tales from The Golden Age, in which he teamed up with his friend Cristian Mungiu and other young directors to stage comedic aspects of the 'golden years'.
Höfer has been directing shorts for quite some time, my favorite being his debut, an almost speechless and very concise take on spacial and emotional distance. Telefon în străinătate/International Phone Call was made in 1998 and is always a pleasure to re-watch. The film displays Höfer's trademark qualities, namely a perfect grasp of visual and verbal humor, perfect timing, and good acting.
While less serious, and admittedly less profound, his next feature, the very dry and very droll Dincolo/On the Other Side tells a tale of masculinity at the Romanian border to Serbia, involving ridiculous bikes, chubby postmen, and nagging wives. The hilarious soundtrack is an extra bonus.
Höfer took on the countryside again with his next short, the internationally acclaimed Ajutoare umanitare /Humanitarian Aid. Although the film is rather on the silly side, it is also a biting irony of the western do-good-er mentality, while also slamming the locals with just the same portion of sarcasm. But what Höfer does so well is having a big heart for his protagonists, as flawed as the may be, and an even bigger heart for never leaving an absurd moment unused. And for this alone he should definitely be more famous.
Scroll below for the shorts in full length and subtitled in English. And if you wish to practice your Romanian humor then take a shot with the subtitle free Dincolo.
By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, firstname.lastname@example.org
(photo source: Mongrel Media)