Romanian film review – Ladies’ Trips, Horror in the Woods, On-Air Bickering: Films for the Holidays
The holidays are finally here and with them the inevitable seasonal evergreens on TV, from Christmas love stories to Home Alone (all parts). For deeper, darker, or funnier alternatives, check out the recommendations below.
Currently at Muzeul Țăranului Român cinema, in Bucharest, you can catch Tudor Platon’s Casa cu păpuși/ House of Dolls, not a Holiday movie per se, but a most wonderful watch for this period. Platon features himself in his first directing effort as he joins his grandmother and her group of long-time friends on their annual vacation. The ladies talk, have a barbecue, relax in the sauna, and chat some more while Platon’s camera unobtrusively records their days together. They discuss anything from fashion to relationships, old acquaintances, and carving one’s place in a man’s world. House of Dolls is mostly a very funny ride, these are vivacious ladies with a great, cheeky sense of humour and the ability to cherish life despite the unavoidable tragedies along the way. A life-affirming happiness pill.
Until recently, Radu Muntean’s Întregalde was also showing in theatres, but now you can catch in on Netflix. This is the opposite of House of Dolls, but very much a Christmas-y film, albeit on the much darker side. The film follows a group of friends from Bucharest delivering aids before Christmas to families in isolated villages. When they take along an old man wandering by the side of the road, their car gets stuck in the mud, and from here on, the trip gets stranger and stranger for the city folks, whose friendship and humanitarian intentions crack faster than the threatening falling night. Gripping, clever, and unforgiving, Întregalde is terrifically entertaining.
Radu Muntean made another terrific film in 2006, also set around Christmas, this time during the 1989 Revolution. Hârtia va fi albastră/The Paper Will Be Blue follows a policeman who leaves his platoon to join the revolutionary movement on the night of December 22, leading to a frantic search party. The drama is a thrilling, funny, and ultimately very moving story of a historic moment told from a personal perspective. You can catch it on TV around this time, or buy the DVD.
The last recommendation is business as usual because no Holiday season would be complete without the undisputed classic, Corneliu Porumboiu’s very, very funny A fost sau n-a fost?/ 12:08 East of Bucharest. When three representative citizens of the provincial town of Vaslui gather in the local TV studio to discuss whether the Revolution also happened in their provincial town, things go awfully (and hilariously) wrong between the cocky presenter, an alcoholic teacher and a depressed pensioner. Throw in an incompetent cameraman and a run-down studio, and you have an incredibly droll film that is also very moving and wise. The film will probably rely up on TV, but you can also find it on Netflix, and on DVD.
Happy Holidays, dear Romania Insiders, may they be joyful and hopeful.