California Dreamin' (2007) Poster

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Cristian Nemescu's California Dreamin' (Unfinished) is furiously funny, outrageously cruel, infinitely critical of Romanians.
alexandrurosu25 June 2007
"California Dreamin' (Nesfarsit)" is one of the finest movies Romanian cinema has ever produced. While the unfortunate death of young director Cristian Nemescu left the film unfinished, the movie has been put together according to Mr. Nemescu's plans.

There are many layers of discourse in this movie that develop as main lines of the narrative - on one hand, there is a sad, cynical, and auto-meditative look at the Romanian society in its purest, unaltered form; on the other hand, the movie speaks of the obsession of a generation of Romanians, that have been waiting for the Americans to liberate them ever since the Second World War; when those two lines meet, incredible things happen; and last, but not least, it shows the personal development of a few characters that are very relevant for Romanians today.

Being a Romanian, I don't usually like Romanian films - many of them are irrelevant, are exorcising demons that have no relevance for us today (like "12:08 Bucharest"); but Cristian Nemescu's California Dreamin' (Unfinished) is furiously funny, outrageously cruel, infinitely critical of Romania and Romanians, and it manages that by simply showing the facts, and not making one personal interpretation.

A brilliant movie done by a great movie maker. May we all remember Cristi forever.
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Great movie but a stereotypical approach of the Balkans
andrei1981-125 June 2007
In artistic terms the movie is great. The story is superb, the acting is excellent too. Nevertheless there is an issue that should be taken into account when a director decides to make a movie with an eastern European setting. Films like the ones directed by Emir Kusturica or Nae Caranfil and now by Nemescu reveal and insist on revealing only one side of the Balkans. This facet is often exaggerated for artistic purposes and while it identifies the Balkans in certain aspects, it can also be very hazardous on the longer term. The Romanian, Serbian or Bulgarian societies are certainly more complex than the instances and the characters depicted in "White cat, black cat", "Philantropica" or "California Dreamin'". This picturesque facet constantly addressed by film makers represents a reality of the region but should not be generalized. This is the hazard of making such movies. Westerners and Americans, not very accustomed to the history and the society of the Eastern Europe might reduce them to this narrow view: gypsies, easy and shallow girls, the general poverty and corruption and a scene populated by low-lifes and scums. Everyone seeing this film should enjoy it for what it is, but should also keep in mind that, although true at a certain level, Romania means more than that.
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Kusturica reborn !
chrisbanach-119 July 2007
This movie is definitely in my Top-5 of 2007, along with "The life of Others".

It's just amazing to see how creative artists from Romania and the Balkans can be. The humor and general spirit of this movie reminds me a lot of Emir Kusturica's talent.

Too sad the director died a year ago in a car crash, 28 year old only.

Obviously, the best flicks don't come from Hollywood lately. Wanna know why ? It's because foreign movies are not ruled by profit-only oriented producers.

It's about "Art" first. Remember ?... Cinema is an art form, not just your regular supermarket product! That's why capitalism is (most often) incompatible with good movies.

With this movie, you'll get another proof confirming this theory.
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tributarystu6 June 2007
It's always touchy to look and judge unfinished work. Nemescu's death was perhaps one of the cruelest things to have happened in 2006 (a year of sufficient cruelty), as it always is when young, talented people fade out too quickly. Yet, in watching "California Dreamin'" I cannot but accept the fact that this may not have been the director's final vision, while still going on to comment on the things I saw and felt. What might have been, what could have been - these are things of the past. We have to enjoy "California Dreamin'" for what it is and judge it accordingly.

The story of Capalnita is a sad one, as it is the story of many parts of Romania, a country in desperate need to be seen and heard. While the movie takes place on a more personal level, the allusion is inescapable, as are quite a few other things about life around here.

The main plot revolves around a NATO transport sent to Kosovo by train, which is stopped in - literally - the middle of nowhere, by a station conductor who claims he wants to see the transit papers for whatever is being transported. As these documents are missing, he decides to pull the train over until the necessary papers come through. The convoy's American forces accept this delay grudgingly, but they quickly join the celebrations held in their honor by a mayor who sees profit opportunities in the unexpected turn of events. Soldiers get together with local girls, love and sex stories unfold, with no actual surprises to the mature mind. In the mix is a young local boy, head over heels in love with the most attractive girl from the village - a common story of shyness and deep affection. As the delays pile on, spirits start rising and the situation gets more and more tense - especially as the American commanding officer, Captain Jones (Armand Assante), grows wearingly restless. The outcome of the story is for you to relish or despise, but at two and a half hours, you'll have to be patient.

The film's length is, I'm sorry to say, unjustified and the story drags you along in something that resembles agony more than joy. Also, structure and style tend do be more conventional than not. Yet, there are many beautiful moments to be had, many moments which reflect a desperate world, moments with universal validity on both social and personal levels. The characters themselves are quite intriguing at first (as is the whole movie, for around sixty minutes) but they start wearing off towards the end, plagued by what I found to be strange inconsistencies - or plainly a raw denouement to the picture. There is something subtle, something beyond the obvious realm of the film that quietly unfolds, a story of immense sadness, a story that reflects exactly how diseased modern society is, with an emphasis on Romanian problems that have shaped the late 20th century for all the people living there. However, the humanity which lies behind these unobtrusive connections knows no boundaries of land and nationality. The problem I saw myself faced with was that the film did not clearly focus on its direction(s), and despite its unsympathetic running time, it still rushed a half-fabricated end - which I found to be a serious letdown. All in all though, the underlying message is clear and sensible: there will be no Americans (or any "others") to come and save us, we need to find the resources ourselves to deal with life as it as and as we've made it be.

Armand Assante plays it straight all the way, the tough guy trying hard to keep calm in a situation which defies his notions of bureaucracy and efficiency. The lack of response from Romanian authorities was - to my mind - completely unimaginable to a foreign army man, yet the usual resourcefulness of American imagination clears the way for a solution. While I found it disturbing and unsatisfactory, it is for you to judge its validity. Charming as she was (and always is), Maria Dinulescu portrays a character so typical and so unbelievable that it is hard to truly feel for her fate, as ultimately is the problem of almost the whole of Capalnita. Despite the fact that the film very accurately (and often amusingly) portrays the underpinnings of Romanian hospitality, this effect wears off about halfway through the film - as I've already mentioned.

So how valuable a film is "California Dreamin'" and did it deserve a win at the Cannes? Well, it is a film which could have been good - even very good - had Nemescu had time to round it all off, but as such it is more of a long and unsatisfactory ride through the mysterious world of a tiny town at the outskirts of Bucharest. There's a lot of stuff there you can enjoy, a lot of sad truths and a great central character in the person of Doiaru, but the final impression is weak and underplays the film's potential. Yet...we live with what we have.
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Dare to say again the same story... (A deja-vue but unlike any-other)
badeavasile19 September 2007
It's funny how similar are all the comments posted by the Romanian viewers. The first time I saw the movie I thought "God, is it possible to never forget such a sad existence? Such a bitter-sweet look upon our life? The so-called *balkanism*?..." Do we ever make a jump, like a time-lap, and have different views on what do we do every day?

Further more beyond the "national sport" (as someone once called it) of self-complaining lies the truth. A certain truth that hurts. We can all see the progress of the Romanian society; we think that the rest of the world doesn't. We point the finger on "the other side" or "the good side", so there shall be no mistakes... Well, I've been once in Capalnita, and I had a shock because after seeing this movie I realized it's all there! There's no need for sets, there's no need for trained actors... The grass still grows between the pieces of the sidewalk in the railroad station... Only today's mobile phones and the car models have changed.

Why should a film director make a "more expensive film" or a "non-low-budget" one? Do you really care about how much did it cost? Or, should really be the film an accurate projection of the real life? Was it ever so? No matter what good or wrong you you'll see in the recent Romanian society, there are certain people living in this country who can make genuine art. And finishing a work of art is utopia.

I couldn't avoid to observe Nemescu's care for details and real life like shots. Many excellent Romanian film directors tend to have a keen sense for the dynamism of the short takes by "wearing" the camera like a peer of glasses. No soundtrack is needed except the music within the scene. In the most cases the human eye concentrates on human subjects just like Nemescu's lens did in this masterpiece (from normal to long focal lens, say 85mm or even more than 200mm in some cases). One surrealist shot (with the "Romanian-made" Efel tower) caught my attention as an exception. No image stabilizer is needed when you make a non-commercial movie. On the contrary! Usually, in a very dynamic scene -like a fight- your eye captures only bits of shocking details, cause you're frightened. Complementary artificial lighting is quite moderate if not absent. Sure, this version of the displayed picture needed further cuts and refinements. And this is not because the picture is "too long". That's Hollywood's paradigm, cause art in general doesn't deal with units of measurement. Strangely as it seems for the "outsiders", for those who consider the play of the actors and the action are overreacted, this film can generate pure emotions, antipodes, anger, hope, deliverance, fervour, grace... And this is the main purpose of the 7-th art.

Yes, it's a great movie, even if it's unfortunately unfinished; like an unexploded bomb in the Romanian consciousness... But is there anything "finished" or it has ever been something really "finished" in our country, Romania? Maybe Cristian Nemescu new why it's "endless".
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Just a beautiful peace of cinema
Mihai Trica2 January 2008
I never wrote any review so far, but after reading the other comments I felt compelled to do it. First of all, you must understand this was a work in progress, the movie remained unfinished. To all the users that made negative comments I say to try not to feel directly involved and to give the movie a objective note. Yes, there are some stereotypes involved and people from the Western countries must realize this is not who we are, neither we, as Romanians, nor other Balkan nations. There were a lot of movies that had similar plots, like "La vita e bella" by Roberto Benigni. This is a movie about war and it must be judged this way. Try to get past the black screens, like some user complained about, not giving the movie a fair interpretation. Things like that MIGHT happen in the future, maybe this movie should be watched by our politicians, as I consider it as a satire. What stroked me the most was the the evolution of Assante's character, beautifully portrayed. Above all, I recommend this movie for those who are fed up with Hollywood's blockbusters and the "they lived happily ever after" movies. The world needs from time to time a pure dose of reality.
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One of the best Romanian movies
dromasca9 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Cannes 2007 was great for the Romanian cinema. While Cristian Mungiu's '4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days' was collecting the 'Palme d'Or' another Romanian movie was receiving the alternative 'Un Certain Regard' prize. This was a debut big screen film but unfortunately also an and of career film, as director Cristian Nemescu died in a car accident last year.

The story based on real events happens in the Wild East landscape of 1998 Romania, the period of transition, a time when everything can happen even in places where usually nothing happens. The main character named Doiaru is one of the dubious 'entrepeneurs' of the era, he is the chief of a railway station trying to get rich by almost openly stealing from the freight trains that pass through his station. He's the type of guy who doesn't miss an opportunity. When a military transport guarded by a small American unit on its way to the NATO war scene in Yugoslavia enters his fief he decides to stop it under the pretext that the transport misses the necessary paperwork. It is not clear why he is doing it, he does not accept bribes, he certainly is not a lawful citizen, and even politics do not seem to be his motivation. Maybe it's just personal, maybe he just wants to show he is in control. The result is that the American soldiers and their commanding officer captain Jones which had over-passed until then at modern vehicles speed all the horse-driven carriages of the Romanian peasants find themselves suddenly stuck as a situation that resembles some spaceship having landed on an unknown planet.

We know from flashback scenes run in parallel with the main action that Doiaru is the son in a family of the enemies of the former Communist rule, the type of guys who had been waiting for decades as most of the Romanian people for the West and especially from the Americans to come to their rescue. In one of the key scenes in the movie Doiaru tells Jones something like: 'We have been waiting for you since War War II. You did not come to rescue us from the Germans, you did not come to rescue us from the Russians, you did not come to rescue us from the communists and Ceausescu. Now you come?' Actually what is left to be saved in 1990 Romania? Maybe to save the Romanian from themselves seems to say the authors of the movie who are extremely critical about the state of the Romanian society represented by the village in the middle of nowhere. A society where corruption and demagogy seems to be the rule, which mimics democracy without understanding or practicing it, where even the dreams of the young seem to be corrupt.

The other question is whether the Americans can play the role of saviors. Doubful seems the film to be saying. For the majority of the movie the two groups cannot communicate one with the other and when they do they rather mis-communicate than communicate. If Romania and the West lost contact half a century ago re-connecting does not seem a simple task, as history has brought the two worlds not on parallel by remote and separate Universes. Even when commander Jones decides to do what to him looks like the right thing and takes part his decision is based on mis-communication and lack of understanding of the local culture and policy. The result is a disaster, people kill one another when the Americans leave, and those are not even aware about what happened as they have again mis-interpreted the shooting nosies and fireworks prepared by the local gangsters to hide the noise as something organized in their honor.

This is a complex movie that can be interpreted at different levels. At the political level it is a strong critic of the corruption and moral emptiness of the Romanian society and of the cultural insensitivity and lack of compassion of the West for the young nations in Eastern Europe, as well as a pessimistic view on chances of intervention. At a human level there is little compassion for any of the parts, maybe the young people are somehow looked at more sympathetically, their perspective also seems to be limited. The story telling is cursive, characters speak to us and actors really meld into the film. The best was for me Razvan Vasilescu, a genial actor who already made a few roles that describe best the character of the villains of the Romanian transition.

Cristian Nemescu could not finish the film, and the title bears a sign - 'nesfarsit' means literally 'not terminated' and 'endless' speaking figuratively. It does not look by any means as an unfinished piece of cinema, and I like to believe that the title rather symbols the permanence of what happens in the movie, the need to recognize that building a sound future cannot be done without acknowledging what happened in the past.
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The story of Romanians and their hopes
Armina Cerbu7 October 2007
I think this movie expresses very well the mixture of feeling the Romanians always had for Americans: "hatred" because they didn't save us in the WW2 (topic presented in the movie as a "remember", for which full understanding i recommend that previously you read a bit of WW2 history), "fascination" - from the Romanian girls, because American soldiers are considered handsome, and as being a way for escape from a possibly unhappy life, "business interest" - from officials, because they could invest money and help the local communities to develop. Different people with different expectations from the same Americans. All these aspects are presented wonderfully by Nemescu, telling our story as Romanians, to the entire world. To understand this "story", you have to be interested in it, might not understand the movie.
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Cristian Nemescu conquered immortality...
oram_213 June 2007
Cristian Nemescu's Cannes award wining movie, California Dreaming manages to exceptionally underline the issue of globalization, bureaucracy, the international image of the United States and it's actions, opportunism; also some of the bitter realities of Romanian administration, politics, mentality and the servility regarding foreigners that is found in this country way of thinking; everything is spinning around an old local obsession from 1944 when all of Romania was waiting for the US Forces to arrive and liberate it from the occupants; the viewer is surprised several times by different cues(lines) that are more or less subtle and what is impressive is that with only one phrase some of the characters manage to create powerful images and scenes. The arrival of the Americans in the Capalnita Village it is seen by locals as a unique chance to live a better life and in their attempt to distinguish themselves, the villagers become capable to give rise to amazing actions never seen before in the community even though in the end all becomes so very ridiculous and ironically for both of the sides(the US Marines and the Romanians)but for different reasons: the Americans because of their unstoppable urge to leave and being stuck in the middle of nowhere and the villagers for their desire to lure and impress the new arrived guests. Another thing to remind is the brilliant black and white scenes mixed in the movie, which present a story from The Second World War, aspects which are essential for the viewer to understand the mentality of one of the most important character named Doianu, the one who actually starts the main plot. The overall impression is that of a movie with a great script, very well played, fascinating situations, but above all so very exceptional directed.
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A certain masterpiece
observator_ro5 July 2007
All of us, when tired, look for an easy and full of fun or action movie in a Hollywood style. However, once in a while, sooner rather than later, is not bad watching a movie that makes us use a little our brain in conjunction with our emotions. California Dreamin' is such a movie. First of all, you must take into account that this movie was not post-processed almost at all due to the tragically death of its director. It is useless to think how it would have been looked if it was finished by Nemescu. We have to look at it as it is. Even like this, movie was brilliantly directed making me remember of Antonioni's Blow-Out. Lots of people would not like it because it shows too much poverty or does not show all aspects of Balkan's life or just because is not a Hollywood movie. Let's be straight, no movie gives you a panorama about a region's life, for this you should watch News or read magazines. Movies give you a vision built by a group of people starting with the screenwriter and ending with its director. You may agree with it or not but this is not important. Important is if after a while it makes you think and if it does the movie was not useless. Others didn't like the movie being ambiguous but they forget that this is an art movie which is not giving you solutions, but based on presented facts you have to find the answers by yourself and no wonder if each person will find different conclusions because after all we are different from each other. Or this is the greatest merit of this movie: makes you think about a lot of things among which why life is so hard when can be easier. Obviously this movie was a hard option for Nemescu but eventually because of this option it is his postmortem triumph. In the end, this movie is not an image of Balkans but an image which can be applied to 80% of this world. The feelings and emotions included in it can be applied to 100% of this world. It is tragic Nemescu died after his first movie, but it is fortunate he left as legacy such a movie rather than a regular "big hit".
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It takes you out of the American movie style
izotope20 June 2007
Hm... lets see:

This movie is kinda different , it takes you out of the American movie style(lots of shots ,as much action as possible but..for what?). Simple low budget movie that shows that you could make a good movie if you have good ideas! Somebody once produced a brilliant movie shot in one room, .. just one room! ..yes i'm talking about "12 Angry Men" , so "California Dreamin'" based on (i consider) a good plot with low amount of money it deserve to be watched.

Fugitive brief: *Action is placed in Romania, in a small village,year 1999. *Americans were passing through Romania to deliver NATO equipment *In a small village they were stopped by the Railway chief because they were not having any travel papers.(Alltough the railway chief was having orders to let them pass) *They remain in that village for a couple of days until the papers problem was solved (Railway chief explaining the Americans that they ain't better than the rest and need to follow Romanian law)

PS: excuse my English!
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Great metaphor of what's going on with the world today
chronickuk27 May 2007
Excellent masterpiece by Cristian Nemescu. A genius of the romanian cinematography, and one of the world's best movie directors. Armana Asante is has an awesome role, like always, playing a US General, lost in the middle of nowhere...What better place for that, than Romania ! Razvan Vasilescu also makes a wonderful performance, confirming once again, his amazing talent as an experienced actor, prooving why he is one of Romania's top actors.

Cristian Nemescu's work of art brilliantly succeeds in capturing the pitoresque rural life of the Romania's villages, today, a country that is supposed to be an European one, but the mentality of the country people still remains one of the communist era. Full of witt and humor the movie has many funny moments, reminding you, if i may say, of the environment that Borat left back when he left Kazahstan. Too bad, that such a talented director like Cristian Nemescu passed away in such a short notice, at only 27 years old, leaving only a small part of his brilliant work behind him. May God bless his soul !
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An unmistakable Romanian and Nemescian note
Mihnea the Pitbull19 February 2009
I'll begin with a piece of trivia: it's very funny to see that all among the comments about this movie, the worst are originating from Serbia. Why? Because the subject is approaching in an objective way (not a demonizing one) Romania's cooperation with the N.A.T.O. forces, during the Kosovo crisis at the end of the last century. (Besides this, it's significant to see that Mladen Ilic is inventing faults, in his drive to dis-consider the movie - or, perhaps, the poor man is just a profane spectator who has no grasp of the profession; if this be the case, he is excused).

Another piece of trivia is that, after the press screening of the movie, the writer was almost coming to blows with me, because my public comments during the conference had included a certain criticism. (Fortunately, now we are okay again.) To get to the point, I should say that my official review of the movie is pretty detailed, and any Romanian-reading user can read it on Cinemagia or Liternet (unfortunately, I can't post the links here, since the IMDb rules forbid it; but you know what I'm speaking about). The important thing is that "California Dreamin' (Unfinished)" is indeed one of these golden movies of Romanian's present day's generation. It expresses an unmistakable Romanian note, in style, content and feeling, and also a definitory trait of its sadly departed author, the talented an exceptionally rigorous Cristian Nemescu (here comes the THIRD piece of trivia: we fought like mad on the Cinemagia Forum - but, thank God, we made up one year before his tragic demise).

A very important piece of info: Cristi Nemescu had the habit to shoot much more than it was meant to get into the movie, and then to ruthlessly re-organize and cut short his footage, while editing. It was his own way to reach the maximum level of his expression. Still, because of his death, the producer and crew decided to keep as much as possible of his shot footage - out of respect for his work. This is why the movie remained so long and somewhat dissipated in the last quarter.

The good news is that even those scenes are well done, precise and compelling, so the fault belongs only to the structural principles, not also to the pictures as such. Although loosely articulated, boring it doesn't become, that final section! Putting together all the good and bad points, "California Dreamin' (Unfinished)" remains one of the best Romanian movies of all times - and, more than that: as an East European movie in the widest sense. Highly recommended viewing - if you have an atom of cinematographic taste, you won't regret it one bit!
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The Death of Mr. Nemescu
paul2001sw-112 November 2010
Can you make a better film by leaving it unfinished? George Lucas, famously, thought he could have done better with 'Star Wars', but the changes he made after 20 years were generally met with derision. In the case of Cristian Nemescu's film 'California Dreamin'', there's a sadder story: the director died in a car crash while the film was in edit. What he left behind was a story (about American soldiers marooned in a Romanian backwater) that is arguably overlong and unfinished (indeed, the film even has a subtitle to this effect), with some unlikely cuts and juxtapositions (that may or may not have been intended). It's certainly likely that, with more time, he'd have cleaned it up, made it a little slicker and to the point. Or maybe not. Because the wonder of this film is its lugubrious charm, the sense you have in watching it that you are every bit as stuck as the Americans. It's a mood piece, and yet also a piece of uncertain mood. As well as the sort of sly comedy that is consistently to the point without ever actually making you laugh: you watch it with a twitch of a smile perpetually on your face, yet it's downbeat style continuously pulls back from being actually funny. Star of the show is Armand Assante as the bamboozled American captain, out of his depth in a peace zone.

This film brought back memories for me, as I visited Romania twice in the early 1990 (although five or more years before this film is set). And I recognise every thing about this world: the bureaucracy, the corruption, the former communist officials still in place, the decrepitude of the public infrastructure, the general sense that no damn thing works; and of course, the pretty girls excited by the faintest hint of outside. When the captain calls it 'paradise' it's unclear if he's lost his marbles; but the film has certainly not lost its own sense of irony. And yet, I did wonder why a Romanian director should have wanted to make a film that shows such a picture of his country. But then I was reminded of another film about a local community (this time in Scotland) visited by an American, Bill Forsyth's 'Local Hero'; and there are aspects of both films that are similar, not least in the ambiguous relationship of the movie to the people it depicts (superficially, in both cases, our initial sympathies are with the outsiders). 'California Dreamin'' is a much darker movie; but for all its oddness, I loved it. And it reminded me of another time in my life surprisingly warmly.
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The failure of IMDb Ratings!
Partin Pruthi11 May 2010
When I saw that this movie had a 7+ rating, I couldn't wait to watch it. It's a 2:20 hour long move. It is the WORST MOVIE IN THE WHOLE WORLD !!! It is set in a village Romania, and for 2 Hours nothing happens! 2 hours of NOTHING!!! After that nothing... comes more nothing. And more nothing and more nothing and even more.

Probably the reason why this movie has a high rating is because those 10 star ratings were given by the Romanian's involved in the production or whatever. I don't know, it may have Romanian artistic values, which begs the question, are all Romanian movies this bad? Or are they worse?

Do not watch this movie, unless you intend to waste 2 hours of your life! Seriously. Anything is better than this!
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wonderful movie. exactly what Romanian cinematography needs!!!
cezaradam9 July 2007
This movie director who unfortunately died in a car accident and didn't manage to end this gorgeous movie is a real genius and this movie (actually his first and last long movie) is his absolute masterpiece. Interesting and typical subject for the Romanian society (all the villagers becoming really excited, seeing that they are "visited" by Americans), regarding profound problems of eastern-European mentality but at the same time funny and commercial, "California Dreamin'" has everything what a movie needs to be a great success for the public but also a valuable movie that will be for long time actual. This is where the value of this story lies. And this is also why the movie was so well received by both film critics and viewers.

RIP Cristian Nemescu.
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A step up from most other Romanian movies
Havgar24 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I have had the chance to watch this movie three times over the past two weeks due to certain circumstances, and even though I imagined what most of the comments here on IMDb would read, I was still surprised to read them as well as to see the rating that this movie has received from the voters.

The story of the movie is interesting, and drives the movie forward for some time, which is a definite improvement compared to most other Romanian movies. Sadly, however, the movie does not, in my view at any rate, make as much use of the story as it could have. I realize the movie is unfinished but I somehow doubt that rewriting the entire script was part of the filmmakers' plans.

Other positive aspects of the movie are the reasonably good use of flashbacks, the remarkably good sound quality compared to every other Romanian movie ever made, and the acting from one or two of the actors.

Where negative aspects are concerned, however, I fear the list is far longer: The screenplay was one of the worst parts of this movie. Some of the dilogue is horribly unrealistic and literally cringeworthy. Someone on the IMDb boards was saying that all the characters are meant to be stereotypes (save Doiaru), which is all fine, but creating a stereotypical character is not incompatible with dialgoue that is not boring, artificial drivel.

The acting from everyone involved except Alexandru Margineanu and Ion Sapdaru was atrocious. Armand Assante delivers each sentence to his men as though he was sending them into battle against impossible odds, with the fate of humanity at stake.

Overlooking some "plot holes" because it is my understanding this movie is based on true events (though I'm not sure to which extent), I find that the movie becomes very boring, very quickly.

The soundtrack was practically inexistent. 8 songs for a 155 minute runtime is pathetic. There was virtually no ambiance music at any time during the movie, it was mostly just street sounds and the sounds made by various objects. Scenes in movies like "No Country For Old Men" are able to utilize this properly and to great effect. This movie, and "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" are not.

The hand-held camera "effect" employed but seemingly every Romanian moviemaker is becoming old. I get that you can be artsy, great, but can you be refined? The list could go on but I feel it is unnecessary.

I just have to say I was disappointed by this movie, as I had pretty high expectations (no, I was not expecting an Oscar-winning movie, and my expectations were definitely in tune with what Romanian movie-making is capable of).

It was very sad to see the movie exploiting a known formula for good reviews and perhaps an award or two - politically involved plot + movie revealing all the negative aspects of Romania + exploiting the political circumstances = movie with great reviews that "tells it like it is".

I was very sorry to hear about the death of the director, however I found it very distasteful to inform the audience of his death at the beginning of the movie, in what was clearly an attempt to gain the sympathy of the viewers. If they really wanted to account for the fact that the movie was unfinished, they could have said it at the end, so as not to have people watching the whole movie thinking of how sad it was that he died.

Overall, I rate this movie a 5/10, for all the reasons stated above, and find it to be a step up from a lot of other Romanian movies out there (of which I consider Filantropica to be one of the best if not the single best).
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Long and aimless
rbrome9 April 2008
This movie is entirely too long. I kept checking the time while watching it. There is - at most - 100 minutes of entertainment in this movie, but the running time is much longer than that.

The movie also suffers from multiple-personality disorder. It's a lazy comedy one minute, then a love story, then a touching small-town story the next... then a shocking, violent war drama at other times. Not that these elements can't be combined in one movie, but it needs to fit together and feel like one story, (or be deliberately presented as separate stories.) Instead, everything is just mashed together in weird way where it felt like each scene had a different director in charge. It didn't flow well at all.

Half the time I wasn't sure what the "point" of the movie was. At the very end, there is definitely a "point", but then I wasn't really sure how everything led up to that. Perhaps half of the scenes in the movie helped build up to the ending, but the other half didn't seem to fit with that story line at all.

There was some good acting, though most of it was not top caliber.

At the film festival where I saw it, they billed it as a comedy. It is not. There's a small amount of humor, but it is not a "comedy". Either that, or it's just not very funny. I laughed twice, I think.

The story has a lot of potential. It has its moments, but this is just not a great film.
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shaky and long
SnoopyStyle28 June 2016
It's 1999. American soldier Captain Doug Jones (Armand Assante) and his men are on a train carrying NATO equipment for the Kosovo conflict. They're crossing Romania with the government's full support. Locals in Capalnita have blocked over a strike. Station master Doiaru refuses to allow the train passage without proper paperwork. He has no love for NATO or the Americans. In flashbacks, he's a boy during WWII.

I have two big problems with this quirky little indie. The first is the standard indie-camera-shake. I don't usually complain but it's a bit too jerky. The other is the long running time. There is an important reason for the long edit but it doesn't make it good. This should be about an hour shorter. It's suppose to be quirky and fun. It can't maintain that with this extended pacing. It needs sharper editing desperately.
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An Interesting Look at America From a Foreign Perspective.
ecmelton-186-10504912 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The film, California Dreamin', shows the love hate relationship that much of the world has with the United States. America creates a large volume of pop culture in the form of movies, TV shows, music, and fashion trends that endears their culture to much of the world. However, the actions of the American government and military are very heavily criticized on the world stage. As a global superpower the US is expected to handle their foreign affairs delicately. If they act too much they are viewed as overbearing tyrants, and if they act too little people question why America isn't doing more to help out.

The stationmaster, Mr Dolaru, stops a NATO train even though they have permission to cross Romania. It's revealed throughout the film that Dolaru is purposely trying to be an obstruction to the American military. Through flashbacks and dialog the story of Dolaru's early life explains the animosity he has for the Americans. The city where he lived with his family during WWII was frequently bombed by the Germans and his parents repeatedly talked about how the Americans were going to come in and save the day. This never happens. Instead the much harsher Soviet Army drives the Germans out of Romania. In the process they make prisoners of anyone that had any connections with the Nazis, including Dolaru's parents. Dolaru never saw his parents again and blames America for not saving his parents and not being the heroes he thought they should have been. It appears Dolaru idolized the Americans before he lost his parents. His early infatuation probably contributed to him becoming extremely bitter about their lack of involvement in protecting Romania because he saw it as a betrayal. His heroes had let him down and now he hates them.

Dolaru is able to get away with stopping the train for several days because the Romanian government doesn't function very efficiently in this movie. People in various government offices are shown trying to get the proper paperwork that they think will convince Dolaru to let the Americans pass and ultimately failing. This is an interesting role reversal. In the 1940s the American government did not act to help the Romanians in the way they were expected to, and in the in the main events of this film the Romanian government is not helping the Americans in the way they were expected to either. This parallel could serve a few different purposes. Its intent could have been to show that everyone had unrealistic expectations of how much help they were entitled to. Captain Jones expected the Romanian government to let him cross the country without following proper railway protocol, and Dolaru expected the American government to expend resources to specifically save the Romanians during a World War encompassed several nations. Neither party is really justified in expecting the other to cater to them, but, they both get very upset when they don't get their way. Admittedly, they were both in very serious situations, with Dolaru losing his parents and Jones losing military lives in Kosovo, but their expectation of special treatment is setting themselves up for failure. If the NATO train had all the proper paperwork and didn't just expect to be let by because they felt what they were doing was important, Dolaru may not have gone on a personal vendetta against them. Likewise if Dolaru's family had left the city or the country instead of waiting around for the Americans to save them, they likely wouldn't have been captured by the Soviets. The American bomb from WWII that explodes later in movie seems to support the theme that relying too much on others is going to end up coming back to bite you. The Americans never came to save to Romanians but they still dropped a bomb that blew up part of the city and knocked out the power. How much damage would they have done if they had actually come to help?

Most of the people in the town view the American culture as a novelty and treat the American soldiers the same way. They aren't interested in any of the political or military aspects of America. Some of the people in the town, the mayor in particular, don't seem to have any depthful understanding of America. They like Elvis, and they like cowboys, so they like America. That is the extent of their knowledge.

Many of the town's girls are attracted to the American soldiers because they want an American to fall in love with them and take them back to America. That is a fairly unrealistic expectation to have after a five day relationship. Monica has a more realistic understanding that their relationship is not going to work out or last. At the end of the movie she doesn't even give her love interest her phone number when he ask for it, instead drawing a smiley faced sun on his hand instead. At the beginning of the film she is so eager to leave that she sneaks on the American train, but by the end of the film she decided to stay and go to college. It's not entirely clear why she does this. It could be that she just has a better grounding in reality.

The lyrics to song "California Dreamin'" by the Mama's and the Papa's describe a person who is tried to their drab winter setting and spends their time wishing they were under the warm California sun instead. This also accurately describes the way most of the townspeople in Capalnita view America compared to their own home. They view their small town as boring and only think of the exciting and culturally rich aspects when they envision America. This means that a lot of people either have an unwarranted love for America or an unusual amount of disdain when they realize the truth that America isn't all that much different or better than their own country.
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The tragic loss of a great talent
Martin Bradley14 June 2014
The young Romanian director Cristian Nemescu was killed shortly after completing this tragicomedy set during the conflict in Bosnia. His death was a double tragedy; the loss of a young life, (he was only 27), to be sure and the loss of a potentially major talent in international cinema. However, despite it's setting "California Dreamin'" isn't so much a comedy of war but a biting satire on bourgeoisie attitudes in a country struggling to make itself heard. It may not be quite in the same class as some of Milos Forman's early Czech films, though on occasion it does come close, and there were times when I was reminded of Jiri Menzel's similarly set "Closely Observed Trains". The plot revolves around a group of US soldiers, part of NATO, caught between a group of striking villagers and the corrupt station-master who refuses to let their train pass through his station and it is apparently based on fact. Nemescu manages to poke gentle fun at all sides; no-one finally emerges intact with both the Americans and the Romanians coming off equally badly and he does a wonderful job in evoking the boredom of village life. The performances throughout are superb with perhaps Ion Sapdaru as the mayor and Razvan Vasilescu as the station-master the standouts. Those icons of both American and Romanian culture, Elvis and Dracula, also make an appearance.
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A fine metaphor
liviu-huluta26 September 2011
This is the finest metaphor for the Romanian American relationship as it is viewed from the Romanian side. It goes deeply, but in a fun manner, into this 70 year old relation. All aspects are quintessential to understanding the Romanian understanding of world politics. The movie might be hard to understand for a Westerner that has not all the data, but definitely strikes a cord and you will feel it throughout the movie, no matter your nationality. To define this movie I would focus on realism, characters that do represent stereotypes, black Romanian humor, teenage Balkan sexuality and between the lines harsh criticism of world politics. One should look beyond the situational humor and invest some time to read between the lines of one of the best movies produced by the Eastern European cinema in the past two decades
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milos0317 June 2007
Lousy movie, completely. This is exactly what people in the West expect to see as a picture of the Balkans and Eastern Europe, a stereotype. I am sorry to hear that the director died in a car accident, but that doesn't make this movie more valuable. I also understand why it got Cannes award - it seems to give an insight into Romanian society today, but I believe this is not a real picture. Whenever foreign reporters come to Balkans, they make and later publish photos of bizarre, ugly, poverty marks, and no one picks what is valuable in that particular culture. That is precisely what this Romanian movie does: look how many bizarre and corrupted characters we have in our country, our girls are easy for US dollars, everything is dirty and cheap. And when it comes to plot and other dramatic qualities of this movie, it is nothing but confused - the motivation for the provincial railway station manager to stop and hold the train for days is totally vague, and when possible causes for his behavior appear, we still don't know for certain which one is the real one: does he want a bribe? no. is he doing it because he hates Americans? maybe, but not certain. does he want to sabotage Nato and prevent people in Serbia from more suffering? maybe, but not certain. is he disappointed in life and simply cynical? maybe, not certain again. we don't get a real answer. many other important things are also badly motivated in the story and vague.

Milos, Belgrade, Serbia
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Sma9 December 2007
Your comment can also be seen as anti-critical movies. This is the Romanian point of view. If you lived here you would understand why people tend to criticize Americans and their politics.

As long as Romanian people deal with Americans and are involved in their political movements, they are also allowed to state their opinion in every available way. Whether you find it anti- American or not is not in any way important, because a viewer will never understand the real intetions of a writr. That's why people are so manipulable, because they understand what they were supposed to understand. If you were Romanian you would see the movie from a different angle. Consider this before you spread crude remarks.
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Horrible Horrible Horrible Horrible !!!!
mladenilic3 December 2007
I just came back from the theater and I have to say that watching this movie was a very painful experience , like the title say , this movie is horrible!

My girlfriend is a student at the art university, the film directing section, so she often goes to see alternative indy films and she asked me to go with her to the independent film festival and we chose this movie because of the good ratings here on IMDb. What a mistake!!!

Okay, I'm going to be objective as much as I can , now. The director did a bad job here. A lot of scenes are cut in a very crude way. But , compared to the cameraman's work, he was great!

I don't know how heavy was the camera or how weak and amateurish the cameraman was but this is probably the worst problem of the movie. There isn't a single scene , not a single shot, were the camera doesn't shake. They had a chance to shoot some really good photography but they ruined it by shaking the camera. The faster the camera moves ,while following the actors, the less you can see. He couldn't even zoom right , a lot of shots were blurry because of that.

The actors were okay, at least the leading ones. But there were scenes were you could see the actors watching the camera and ,probably,reading cue cards or taking the directors orders behind the camera.

The story was nothing special, to say at least. The plot was very simple and ridicules in my opinion. Too many stereotypes and too many clichés. Even if it's ,by some chance, based on true story ,it still sucks.

Do I have to say that this movie is unbelievably boring? No, I don't.

Don't be fooled by the ratings and good reviews . The wast majority of people who voted and wrote good reviews are from Romania . It is ,therefore, clear that the majority of Romanians ,who voted, gave this movie such good rating just because it's a Romanian movie and not because of the movie itself.

I don't think anybody could honestly say that this movie is good.

Don't waste you're time , see something else. Anything else!
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