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Kwirky Romanian Comedy with a sexy lady is worth a look
Viewed at SEEFEST - South East European Film Festival of Los Angeles, 2013, a niche festival dedicated to the exhibition and promotion of films from the Balkan Peninsula and Turkey. The 8th Annual edition of SEEFEST opened on May 2, 2013, with a screening of the off-beat Romanian comedy "Of Snails And Men" (Despre Oamnei si Melci) directed by Tudor Giurgiu, one of the leading figures of the vibrant Romanian film industry.
The story is set in 1992 shortly after the fall of communism in Romania and opens surprisingly with TV scenes of Michael Jackson on a flash visit to Romania. Completely unaware that Michael had actually included Romania in one of his European tours I thought for a minute that this might be a fake Michael played by an actor with all the dangling strips of hair half covering his face, but, no this was actual archival footage used to set the stage for the bizarre comedy that ensues. Briefly, the state owned ARO factory in a small town (not Bucuresti) is about to be bought out by a French snail can manufacturer (Robert) in a shady deal with the Romanian factory boss (Vladimir) that will put 800 people out of work while lining the pockets of the parties to the deal. These two converse in French and the French buyer has a son who will soon get involved with a local lass (Vladimir's secretary) and eventually take a dim view of his father's tricky machinations.
Geoege Petrescu, (Andi Vasluianu) a handsome Union Leader gets inside information from Manuela, (Monica Birladeanu) sexy secretary of the double-dealing Romanian CEO (Vladimir) with whom he is, incidentally carrying on a rampant extra-marital affair. In a scene that is both highly erotic and quite funny at the same time we see them humping away madly on the roof of the factory and George finds out what the price agreed on will be. Spotting a newspaper add by an artificial insemination clinic offering $50 for every usable sample he does a fast calculation and concludes that if each man in his union contributes a sperm deposit, at 50 bucks a shot they will raise enough money to buy out the factory themselves and save their jobs.The rest of the story centers around this madcap premise which is border-line ridiculous. George, on his best behavior (ahem) is cleared to make the first deposit himself but is barely able to convince his men to follow suit under condition that they have to refrain from having sex with their wives for a while to store up a good ejaculation, not smoke, and otherwise meet the guidelines specified by the Artificial insemination bureau. En masse they take the trip in to the capital Bucuresti to visit the clinic and fulfill their duties but are bitterly disappointed to learn that this is not just a masturbation center but a serious organization looking for donors with very specific genetic qualifications if they are to ultimately become remote control fathers in other countries.They are looking for well educated men with high IQs, cultural sophistication, and Nordic features. Anything but grubby Romanian factory workers! The ideal type, George is told by the woman in charge, would be a young Blonde haired Danish man --Eugenics at work! The enraged workers storm the sperm clinic but are repelled by the police who quickly arrive on the scene. With this plot foiled and Manuela having fallen in love with Olivier the son of the French entrepreneur, George goes back to his wife and now comes up with a new scheme to save his fellow workers. At the end they are all seen out in the fields under his supervision collecting prime Romanian snails for export to France where escargots are a national delicacy.
While "Snails and Men" is not exactly the heavy duty stuff from Romania that has been snagging all kinds of awards at European festivals in recent years, the Michael Jackson touches, the quirky plot twists and, above all, the undeniable virility of Mr. Vasluianu and the blazing sex appeal of Ms. Birladeanu, if properly promoted, could make it a surprise hit on the American sub-title market.
Andi Vasluianu (39), who plays George the philandering Union leader, is one of the most popular leading men in contemporary Romanian cinema and this film is a perfect vehicle for his talents both dramatic and comic.p Monica Bîrlădeanu, now 34, has been named the "sexiest woman in Romania", the "sexiest TV star" and "most beautiful woman in Romania" by various magazines and it's not hard to see why as she breezes through this film in Ava Gardner fashion. She also demonstrates a certain linguistic skill speaking Spanish with her French boyfriend since she doesn't know French (yet).
Director Giurgiu was on hand to answer audience questions about the film and said that it was based on actual events which occurred in 2002 but the story was set back to 1992 to coincide with Michael Jackson's visit to Romania which caused a national sensation at the time. The sperm scheme, however, was a concoction. The plant takeover which occurred in 2002 was actually by an American firm, but this was changed to a French one because Romania, being a Latin country, has always had strong cultural affinities with France. The French finagler, Robert, is played by well known French actor Jean-François Stévinin, and his real life son, Robinson Stévinin is his son Olivier in the picture. The role of Vladimir, the scurrilous Romanian CEO, was taken by veteran Romanian character actor Dorel Visan who was seen here two years ago in the Hungarian-Romanian co-production "Biblioteque Pascal" show at the LA International Film Festival.
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