The New Romanian Cinema between the tragic and the ironic

The Death of Mr Lăzărescu (the second film by Cristi Puiu), is without a doubt the paradigmatic, even programmatic work of the Romanian New Wave. With its austere classical aesthetics, it separates radically the past of Romanian auteur cinema – highly metaphorical – from its present and future. Even more importantly, through the passions of its eponymous character it places itself in direct opposition to commercial cinema – some locally produced, but mostly imported from Hollywood – by delineating the coordinates of the universal and the particular, the global and the local, the sacred and the profane in a hyper-realistic, even naturalistic, ethico-aesthetic regime.

Christina Stojanova and Dana Duma in search of the essence of Romanian New Wave cinema.

Surfing on the Romanian New Wave

After the fall of Communism the seven old studios (including a studio specializing in documentaries, another one in animation and a third one belonging to the army) decayed and finally gave up their last breath. A new system was needed and by copying the French CNC (Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée) in 1990 the Romanian National Centre of Cinema was born and a film fund was established. It took almost a decade for the Romanian CNC to become really functional. In the late 1990s, with shrinking governmental participation in film production and the local currency continuously depreciating, it was almost impossible to make a full-length feature in Romania. The apex of this crisis came in 2000 when no Romanian feature film was produced. Finally it was understood that the French system of financing had to be adapted to Romanian circumstances. In 2003, when the CNC grant began to cover 50 per cent of the budget and even more for debutants, several films were completed.

Marian Tutui on the economic foundations of the Romanian New Wave.

Continuity, change and renewal in Romanian auteur films: from Reconstruction (1969) to If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle (2010)

Part of the first-generation theatre and film-school graduates from the late 1950s, Lucian Pintilie made his debut directing short documentaries and fictions for television. He also staged a lot of classical and contemporary drama, the dense theatrical scene being, as in Britain, quite close to the emerging state-funded film environment. Pintilie distances himself from Romanian realities by using irony, satire and embedded narratives, following the lineage of a heritage that has always been extremely familiar to him: philosopher E.M. Cioran’s pessimism alongside the work of playwrights such as Caragiale and Ionescu known for their consistent taste for black humour, cynicism and the grotesque. Most of his films are adapted from pre-existing literary material but his ‘signature’ as a screenwriter makes them all pure Pintilie products.

Dominique Nasta traces the national aesthetic heritage of 21st century Romanian cinema.

Radu Muntean’s tales of love and fate

In Mario Vargas Llosa’s novel The War of the End of the World (1981) I encountered a description of a love gesture that is still haunting me twenty years later. A man and a woman are asleep together. She wakes up first and notices a thin thread of saliva running off the corner of his mouth. She leans forward and licks it off, gently, careful not to wake him. It’s a scene that has the potential to both turn your stomach and make you melt with endearment – an action so intimate that it crosses the threshold that normally separates any two human beings, except for a mother and her child. The visceral reaction of disgust signals that we are venturing into the ambiguous and somewhat scary territory where the mysteries of sex, death, violence and possibly transcendence lie buried, where our bodies’ responses spring from the deepest instincts that defy rules and laws.

Ioana Uricaru on Radu Muntean’s intimate and ‘painfully detailed’ rendering of reality.

An interview with Florin Şerban

‘After Whistle I opened an acting school. It is a project very close to my soul and I believe in the years to come it will change something on the eastern European acting scene. I also believe it will help me with this new project. I’ve just finished writing my new feature, Storm Through My Veins and I am working on developing, fund-raising, etc. I just started the process two weeks ago. In a year I will be able to tell you if it helped, or… on the contrary.’

Florin Şerban talks to Gary M. Kramer about his succesful feature debut, If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle, and his plans for the future.



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