In 1925 Romania, young Marie-Therese Von Debretsy refuses the flirtatious advances of her husband's commanding officer. As a result, the cosmopolitan family is reassigned to a brutally ... See full summary »
Kristin Scott Thomas,
In order to regain custody of her daughter, whom she left in the care of her fortune-telling aunt, Mona must tell a social worker her story. The tale she spins---and the movie we watch---is... See full summary »
The basic value of this movie is rather conjectural than intrinsic. It acquired a mythical subversive quality, simply because the communist censorship of Romania brutally and unfairly banned it (going to such lenghts as even locking all the copies into a safe, where they stayed until the 1989 Revolution). In truth, the movie had nothing subversive, being only too brutal, misanthropic, naturalist and frivolous for the communists' taste. Pintilie's main (and childish!) mistake was to bring to open an essential dimension of Caragiale's satire that consisted in SUBTLETY. The great playwright's pieces seem to depict a vaudeville-like reality, in an innocuous and harmless comedy style - being based, in truth, on a very profound critical vision to the most essential vices and fallacies of human nature. Tempted by a shallow ambition to shock the sanctimonious communist censors, Pintilie raised this implicit element to a violently explicit level. Well, what he sought, he got! At a professional level, the movie is extremely in-equal, combining a really valuable stage heritage (powerful characters, exquisite performances, atrocious humor), with a totally amateurish movie-directing. Without any legitimate reason, it compiles onto the main play's storyline several other alien subjects from various short stories, thus becoming chaotic, messy and over-the-top. The mise-en-scene is usually skillfully conducted (Pintilie being a good theater director), but compromised by too many awkwardly framed and timed shots. Towards the end, everything becomes redundant, over-lenghtened and boring... And the final shot is a complete failure: without any aesthetic justification, Pintilie takes an auctorial distance, including in the picture his own camera-crew (only as a cheap and tacky trick), and himself, with the parting-shot: "Let them die stupid!" Such an attitude towards his own characters, by turning the critical distance into petty wickedness, is intolerably unprofessional.
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