Romanian film review – Cinema Spotlight: ARTA and Its Virtual Screenings
Cinema ARTA, in Cluj-Napoca, is one of the oldest theatres in Romania, and with its lovely art deco elements and located in a gorgeous castle in the same style, surely the most beautiful still functioning one. Founded in 1913, in the past decades it stopped being used as a cinema with a regular program except for events, but after a complex renovation process, it opened in 2019 as an independent art cinema and with a contemporary concept. ARTA is not just a cinema, but also a multi-disciplinary space, hosting concerts, readings, and exhibitions. They also organize talks and workshops, with the aim of creating a diverse, welcoming community. As the venue is closed now due to the pandemic, its website (Arta-Acasă) hosts films you can watch online on-demand for a determined period. You can book tickets on their site or on Eventbook; the access is restricted to Romania.
Currently showing are two Romanian productions, both among the best released in 2020 and 2021. Lemn / Wood, directed by Monica Lăzurean-Gorgan, Ebba Sinziger, and Michaela Kirst, is a gripping documentary about illegal logging in Romania. This is a very topical, necessary film shot like a tense thriller, it will enrage you and keep you at the edge of your seat. At the other end of the emotional spectrum is Ivana Mladenović‘s Ivana the Terrible / Ivana cea groaznică, one of my recent favorites, a delightful, tongue-in-cheek autobiographical tale of a young director on the verge of a breakdown returning to her small home town on the Serbian-Romanian border. Needless to say, Ivana’s summer does not all go according to plan in this charming comedy, making sure the giggles never end.
My other absolute recommendations would be Céline Sciamma’s Portrait de la jeune fille en feu / Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France, 2019), a ravishing period love story. One of the most beautiful releases of 2019, this film is gorgeous to behold and a terrifically moving, rewarding take on art, desire, friendship, queerness, and women’s lives. Don’t miss it. Also unmissable, also French, and already a classic, is Visages villages / Faces Places (2017). Agnès Varda, one of the greatest filmmakers, teamed up with artist JR for a documentary that hits the road and portrays the people in smaller towns and villages. Like all Varda films, Faces Places is insightful, wonderfully curious and playful, and most of all full of love for its subjects. A true wonder this is, and even if you’ve seen this already, treat yourself and watch it again. There is no better film for these times, so very uplifting and human.