Romanian film review: Road movie madness- Asphalt Tango

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As many exciting premieres will storm cinemas in March, how about a look at another great ‘classic’ until then? A few weeks ago I was raving about Nae Caranfil’s films, particularly his brilliant social comedy Philantropy . Thankfully Mr Caranfil is anything but a one-hit-wonder. His movies are without exception very clever and terrifically entertaining and I would recommend anyone to take the time to watch any of them. Actually, make it the entire Caranfil collection.

It would be great to start with his very first feature, the 1993 comedy È pericoloso sporgersi/Sundays on Leave. But as the film seems to have been forgotten by distributors, let’s go for his equally engaging and in fact even better 1996 dramedy Asfalt Tango, or, as the proper and rather unnecessary English translation would be, Asphalt Tango by its international title.

The film was Caranfils international breakthrough and that was not just due to the co-production with France or his brilliant decision to cast the ever-amazing Charlotte Rampling. The film is an intelligent and entertaining blend of insightful social drama and downright zany comedy, with typically Romanian (black and irreverent) humor. The wonderful Mircea Diaconu plays Andrei, a hapless ‘everyguy’ whose beautiful wife decides to leave him and their dreary life and go to Paris to be a dancer. As he can’t take ‘no’ for an answer, the suddenly heroic Andrei embarks on a crusade to save his wife and other young Romanian women from the clutches of what he thinks is forced prostitution, clashing with anything and anyone ranging from ‘respectable’ Romanian authorities (aka the hilariously useless police) to the group’s sleazy agent, and the dangerously attractive and mysterious French dancer-turned-impresario Marion, played by the great Rampling.

A blasting road movie comedy, Asphalt Tango is also a sharp and humane look at the frustrating 1990s, a period marked by the collective hope to get rich in a social, political, and economic state of chaos. Exemplary writing (Caranfil also wrote the script) and acting, this is one hell of a tango.

The English subtitled film can be found at the Cărturești bookshops and at their online store. 

Apparently, and quite remarkable in an age where anything, wanted and not wanted, is stored on Youtube, there is no trailer to be found online. However, the following clip is a nice teaser for the film’s great blend of drama and comedy:

By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, [email protected]