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Spirited Away (2001)
9/10
Great animation
29 November 2007
It isn't very easy to convince the jury of a pretentious festival like Berlin that your animation is better than all the other features in competition. Maybe Miyazaki's success is based especially on his extremely focused effort on creating a believable world in which believable characters evolve bound by a dreamlike predestination. When Chihiro's parents start eating from the tables filled with extravagant dishes, one can expect something nasty is going to happen. Animation is the closest step a filmmaker can take toward an accurate depiction of dreams, and the "Japanese Disney" can obviously handle the techniques. The entrance in the "mysterious town", the green field, the beautiful architecture, the loneliness of that place reminds us of eerie moments in our own childhood, when we could wonder at a midsummer garden full of flowers in the afternoon. Soon, the plot unfolds and we can witness Chihiro's adventures in a fantastic land where spirits gathered after dark. It's useless to describe the richness of colors and details and the amazing characters which one can enjoy in this monumental fairy-tale. The European and American response to this Japanese production showed that this kind of story, although filled with specific motives and themes, is useful in any civilization. It's about the power of a child to surpass any fear or difficulty in order to be back with her parents.
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9/10
Searching the eternal youth in Romania
4 November 2007
It's been a while since I have written anything for IMDb. "Youth Without Youth" is not only a very personal approach to a barely known novella by Mircea Eliade, but also a homage to Romanian culture and civilization. I felt really good watching a legendary filmmaker like Coppola before the special screening (in Bucharest), walking on the stage and thanking sincerely to the Romanian cast and crew, and in the end, thanking all of us "for Mircea Eliade". I read Eliade's novella some months ago, and I found it difficult and "anti-cinematic", unlike "La tiganci" or other texts of his. "Youth" is, as I saw it, a meditation on time and the relation between human memory and identity. Eliade has been concerned with the theme of "la vita est sueno" (life is dream) for a long time, and his fiction shows it. Coppola also has been preoccupied with time, dreams and memory in his late films like "Peggy Sue", "Dracula" and "Jack". It might seem strange and paradoxical, but beyond the horror clichés and the gory make-ups, one can see lots of formal similarities in "Dracula" and "Youth...". The Italian American director is definitely bound to European Romanticism, and he tried to infuse a lot of new symbols (the mirror, the moon on the bluish night sky, the skull etc) to an already symbol-heavy-loaded narrative. Tim Roth is the ideal choice for the central character (old Dominic Matei that grows young after a lightning stroke). The rest of the numerous cast is composed mainly of Romanian actors, most of which are famous in our country. Iures is known for the international public also, and handles his role elegantly, as usual. Maria Lara is a Romanian-born German actress, playing the role of Dominic Matei's lady friend and lover. The relationship between Dominic and Laura is beautifully developed by Coppola's rewriting of the initial novella. Near the end of the film, there is a moment (shot in Malta) where Dominic decides to break away from Laura, because of the dreadful effects of his supernatural youth on her physical condition. Both actors are impressive in this delicate scene.

This film was, all in all, a pleasant surprise for me. I was expecting a more Hollywood-ish speculative and commercial-oriented style. Anyway, I personally (still) think the D.P. and the photographic department in general was overwhelmed by the magnitude of this project. Coppola should of thought more deeply about his choice, because Mihai Malaimare Jr. (the D.P.) and digital imagery was simply not enough ! It took over 2 years to complete this film anyway, so why didn't he use film instead of digital mediums? Was money really a problem here? Maybe Roth asked for a big fee, I don't know. This film won't be appreciated by a wide audience, because Eliade's literature is very special and restrictive (you need to fancy Romanian folklore and oriental philosophies in order to get into this). In fact, Eliade's novella was clearly inspired (as the main title shows) by one of the most beautiful and profound fairy-tales ever: "Tinerete fara batranete si viata fara de moarte" (hard to translate into English, but it might sound like "Eternal youth and life without death"). Even if you are not Romanian, you should check it out! It will change the way you feel about time and life, the way Eliade changed Coppola from an old mainstream Hollywood director into an arty European film experimenter.
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9/10
irresistible
16 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I must be losing it if I'm voting 9 out of 10 for a film called "Bob the Butler", but I just can't help it. When the film started, I was sure it's something really common, a medium-level comedy. Indeed, it's not for the tastes of a philosophical genius but once you start "digging" the action and the main character you can't stop enjoying this brilliant, innocent, Sunday evening family movie. This is the kind of movie only Americans can make - a loser trains to become a stylish butler and ends up being Brooke Shield's lover with the help of her two funny kids that are fond of him. It's one of the greatest happy-endings I've seen lately - Brooke is looking for Bob in a shipyard, and finds him in a Car-Washing Centre. He just couldn't leave... Irresistible ~
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10/10
the darkest and most intense in the series
10 August 2006
Everybody was curious about this "key" episode in the most famous S.F. series of all time. The big question was: "How is Anakin turning into Vader ?". After all, the whole "saga" was about a "boy-genius" that becomes fascinated by Darkness, and then returns into the Light. The final installment - "Return of the Jedi", is more about the return of Vader, than about his son - Luke, who was never really attracted by evil. So, as Francis Ford Coppola said when he visited the Film University in Bucharest, "Episode III" is like a Shakespearean tragedy". The darkest and most intense film in the series can't top "Jedi", but comes second best. For some minutes I really had the impression that I was traveling back in the eighties, when big-time adventure films looked like this. Great acting in supporting roles, such as the formidable Ian McDiarmid, back in the scary make-up of the Emperor (which should of had that Oscar for make-up), Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu and Christopher Lee as Dooku (a count that sounds a lot like Dracula). Yoda is a great actor, as usual. As they were in the previous two episodes, the leading roles are poorly handled by the such of Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen. These two are striving to keep up the appearances, but they are kind of ridiculous vis-a-vis the cast of the initial trilogy. It seems that Lucas couldn't get out of the young cast the performances that he got from the elder British masters - Alec Guiness, Peter Cushing, now joined by Lee. Anyway, Ewan and Hayden make a decent couple, as master and apprentice. The quarrels between the two are artificial, the same as the relationship between Anakin and Amidala.

If we put aside much of the acting, it's a great ending for the prequel trilogy. Beautiful CGI landscapes from strange planets, exhilarating light-saber duels all-around, breathtaking rides in the various space vehicles and unforgettable alien creatures make this film a unique experience. I've seen it three times in theaters and I couldn't get enough of the magical soundtrack from John Williams, that renders a symphonic pace to the whole. Absolute highlights : Yoda fighting the Emperor in the Senate, Anakin vs. his master and the mind blowing quote (from the exquisite theatrical teaser) "Lord Vader... rise!", that completes the circle. Almost... perfect !
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8/10
great role for Toma Caragiu
27 July 2006
This film is an opportunity to watch great Romanian actors at work, under the direction of Manole Marcus, one of the first Romanian film makers that attended Film School (the first generation at the Academy of Theatre and Film in Bucharest). Toma Caragiu is portraying Constantin Tanase, a great Romanian comedian from the '30s. The film looks like a musical-comedy, but in fact is tragic. The historical background is carefully designed and crafted, starting with the costumes and ending with the grim atmosphere, suggested mainly through an attentive manipulation of light and shadows. Marcus took a pretty long shot with the subject, because Tanase was an "old-time" entertainer, from the the so-called "exploitation" period (that's how the communists called the years of monarchy in Romania). A careful watcher can observe the sympathy for the culture and civilization of that troubled time. Watch for Mircea Diaconu and Mircea Albulescu in two special appearances.
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9/10
Gopo's swansong
27 July 2006
This film is a beautiful ending for Ion Popescu Gopo's film career. Childish, indeed, but charming SF-fairy tale about two little girls getting lost in a fabulous world inside a TV. I remember I saw this film in 1989, when I was 7. TV was important for me those days, because it was the source for thousands of daydreams, i.e. films and cartoons (all of which I saw on video cassettes). Gopo could foresee the impact that television would soon have on young people, so from this point of view, his movie is in a league with Spielberg's "Poltergeist", only a fairy-tale version instead of a horror. Gopo died later in 1989, but before the Revolution broke in December. He never saw Romania turning against oppression and fighting for real freedom, but maybe he didn't need that. He was free in the first place, because he was an artist.
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7/10
used to be funny
17 July 2006
When I saw this film in a cinema in Bucharest I was like 5 or 6. The film was very funny back then, but recently, when I accidentally took a glimpse at it on TV, it seemed obsolete. The humor is not entirely expired, as the musical moments are ridiculously funny and some of the old gags still "steal" a bunch of laughs. In fact, the sets and costumes seemed even more spectacular now, but time obviously damaged a lot of the original photography, as the colors are pretty washed out. Draga Olteanu and Dem Radulescu make a good couple, but the cast highlights remain Mihai Fotino and Marin Moraru, the two scoundrels running around in the moneyed hillbilly mansion, dressed like "ladies" and trying to make an impression on their hosts. The scene where they take refuge in a tree, after trying to steal some money from Radulescu's mansion, used to be hilarious. Now, it's just funny.
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10/10
Simply the best Romanian film
17 July 2006
Yeah, that's it! The best Romanian film ever. Sounds stately, I know, but nobody has topped this film yet. Sergiu himself said that this is "the most IMPORTANT Romanian film", because it serves in a beautiful way the main cause of our people over the centuries - the unification of the 3 ancient Romanian-speaking countries: Transylvania, Moldavia and Tara Romaneasca. This epic that could easily enter the league of such blockbusters as "Braveheart" or "Kingdom of Heaven", depicts the final years of the XVI century, when Mihai Viteazul achieved the longed unification that, unfortunately, lasted less than a year. In fact, I'm talking about the second part of "Mihai Viteazu", here. Everything said is applied to the first part, as well. It's useless to glorify this film in a short comment - you have to watch it and make your own impressions. If you are not Romanian, you won't feel the same as we, all the Romanian movie goers did, but anyway, you can enjoy a truly good piece of historical cinema.

NOTIFICATIONS : the central figure is incarnated by Amza Pellea, a monumental actor at his best. Stay focused on Mihai's mother, approaching the final scene of the film, portrayed by Olga Tudorache in a brief, but wonderful screen appearance.
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Racolarea (1985)
4/10
pretty bad, but brings back memories
10 July 2006
I've seen this film recently on a Romanian TV-channel. It brought up lots of memories from the eighties, when I was a kid and the only films I could see (except VHS) were Romanian or east-European. First, it's the sets. A big part of the action takes place in foreign countries, yet all the furniture is obviously Romanian-made, and all the clothing, the walls, the windows, everything seems to be made in our country. I can't say this film is just bad, because it aged a lot these last 21 years. It must have had a very serious target back then - showing the Romanian population the risks of getting in touch with forces outside the communist space. Now it's just a hilarious, obsolete film that strives to copy some clichés from "James Bond" films of the seventies. Acting is really awful, especially from Piersic, the name of the director is still a mystery. Besoiu plays one of the funniest villains I've ever seen in Romanian cinema.
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8/10
Simply entertaining
10 July 2006
The "Margelatu" series contains one of those movie moments that made a real impression on me as a child: Margelatu (Piersic) cleaning his famous multiple-barrel pistol with an alcoholic liquor, at a table in a squalid old-Bucharest inn. I'm almost sure that I've seen this in "misterele Bucurestilor", although it might have been "Trandafirul ...", or "Drumul...". Anyway, "Misterele..." is opening with another memorable scene - the fair which gathers a real "freak" collection, starting with the magical dentist that worked in open-air (irressistible performance by Jean Constantin) and ending with the weird witch that could see in the future. Simply entertaining.
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Eu sunt Adam! (1996)
6/10
unfinished film
10 July 2006
Mircea Eliade is a delicate subject for Romania. He died in exile, after achieving huge international esteem as historian of religions. He lived for almost 40 years away from his homeland, and the bad thing is that Romanians haven't missed him until recent years.

Dan Pita's film is based on Eliade's novellas "Mantuleasa St.", "At the Gypsies" and a few others. Bold approach on Eliade's complicated fiction, good performances from Iordache, Mihai Calin, Costel Constantin and others, interesting cinematography but, still, an unfinished script leads to an unfinished film. The ending leaves us with the impression that Pita was just exercising his direction using Eliade's works.
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9
7 July 2006
Films like "Die Hard" (the first) and "T2" are simply perfect. "Die Hard 3" is pretty close to a perfect action movie. When I saw the trailer, somewhere in 1995, I was exhilarated. Short moments of over-the-edge action were choreographed on Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", in a beautiful piece of "montage". Great performances all-around and great direction make the flaws in the script less annoying. Anyway, the ending doesn't work as expected. Irons dies almost accidentally, as I personally didn't buy Willis' trick with the helicopter. The same for the aspirin jokes... The rest of the incredible perils are so enjoyable that one doesn't bother to believe any of them. The more I see this film, the more I think that the first 40 minutes are better than the rest. Though, it's almost... perfect !
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The Box (I) (2003)
8/10
surprising
6 July 2006
This film is a surprise. When I started watching the DVD, I was sure it's a cheap, campy, B or C, D-series kind of movie. The kind that goes directly to DVD, after the test-projection. But no! As the story unfolded, I became more and more impressed. I knew Theresa Russel from a series of good films, such as Kazan's "Last Tycoon", where she made a wonderful debut. I also knew James Russo, but I didn't expect such a special performance. Perfectly paced by the director (whom I haven't heard of, before this film), the chain of events doesn't give you the time to wonder If they make any sense or not. You just go along, and accept that Russel's character has a mysterious ex-husband that drags her into dirty business, that the real cops never show up and so on. Leaving for Hawaii, with the girl and the money, would have been such a great ending, but, after all, the girl wasn't very clean, and neither were the money... Which leaves us with one of the most sympathetic killers I've seen in films the last years and an interesting paraphrase-ending to "The Treasure of Sierra Madre". Check out this film.
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9/10
last attempt of Nicolaescu on epic cinema
5 July 2006
This is the last attempt of Nicolaescu on epic cinema. Since then, we've seen "Orient Express" and "15", two minor films more concerned with Sergiu's personal obsessions than with real, big-time cinema. "Triunghiul ..." took almost three years to complete, and the effort shows. A lot of the action takes place outdoors. The locations are spectacular, and so are the battle sequences. A 70 year-old Sergiu shows that he is still able to direct hundreds of live- action extras on a plausible World-War I battlefield. Ilinca Goia is the best presence in this film. The young actress' portrayal of Ecaterina Teodoroiu haunts us after the tragic end of the picture. Radu Banzaru makes, also, a remarkable debut in this film, impersonating a famous German aviator.
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15 (2005)
7/10
it's not that bad...
5 July 2006
Come on ! Everybody says this is a horrible-demented-terrible movie! It's not that bad. I've seen it recently and I have appreciated the twist in the script (Marinica dreams that he escapes from the "death truck"), the reconstruction of some areas in Timisoara, so that they should look like they were in 1989. Mihaela Radulescu is no good. The same for Daniela Nane. Romanian film goers are rushing to find fault with Sergiu these days, because he did some nasty things in the Commission for Film Projects the last years. Indeed, he's not a perfect fellow, but this film ain't that bad.

The ending is kind of silly, though...
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10/10
the top of the list for Sergiu's best films
5 July 2006
This is in the top of the list for Sergiu's best films, maybe right under "Mihai Viteazu". A delicate, clever insight on human behavior in times of fear and oppression, written by Titus Popovici, Sergiu's long-time friend and collaborator. Powerhouse cast and crew renders even more beauty to the script. For a change, everything works in this Romanian film. From the first shot, one can feel this is a great film - the kid running in the field, and this feeling persists to the mind-blowing end. Discussions about the army, between Pellea and the kid, the dinner sequence, the funeral rehearsal - they are all unforgettable moments. Definitevly a winner at Cannes Festival 1971, if it had been selected.
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4/10
really bad Sergiu film
5 July 2006
This is one of the worst films that Sergiu made in his nice career. Terrible acting, dreadful script and so on... Today, this film looks funny due to the obsolete situations and moral issues that were important at the time (the last years of the communist era in Romania). "Highlight" : an endless car chase through a building site, where bombs are exploding all over the place. It's one of the worst chases I've ever seen on film, and at some point one can observe that the editor uses the same takes, or second takes for the same shot, over and over again... I've already seen twice parts of this film, and each time I have wandered about that white horse that appears in the night, right in front of the car driven by Sergiu - is it a metaphor, is it an homage to such filmmakers as Tarkovski ? Sergiu must know.
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interesting but obsolete medieval epic
5 July 2006
Typical "Sergiu production", with the usual extras from the Romanian army fighting around, dressed like medieval Saxons/Normands. Most of the film is all right, although the presence of such great Romanian actors as Amza Pellea is simply decorative. The script is pretty good, despite of my initial expectations. The only moment worthwhile, in fact, is the ending. I didn't know that Wilhelm was crowned in an empty church, as all the attendants fled due to a Saxon rebellion that was taking place outside. There is a lot of fiction here, obviously, but the scene works almost as well as the "baptism" scene in "The Godfather - Part I". While his troops are hunting down the rebels outside the church, Wilhelm is having a philosophical argument with the priests, before taking the crown from their hands. An interesting approach on the crucial moment for the fate of the English people, a fate that is still in progress today.
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Taxi Driver (1976)
9/10
arguably DeNiro's second best screen performance
3 July 2006
In the seventies, Robert DeNiro was scoring one great performance after the other, under the direction of such masters as Coppola, Bertolucci, Kazan and, of course, Martin Scorsese. In "Taxi Driver" he achieves, in my opinion, his second best performance next to "The Deer Hunter". The whole film is about his character, really. This haunted taxi driver haunts the spooky streets of New York City every night, like a ghost summing up those tormented souls that "came home", from Vietnam. The camera captures the interior world of Travis - where the usual nocturnal "fauna" becomes a gallery of zombie-like, crawling creatures - while filming the surroundings in which the characters evolve. Scorsese superbly directs the young Jodie Foster and also, the beautiful Cybill Shepherd, whose performance was ignored by many critics raving about Foster. This atypical American film was awarded "The Golden Palm" at Cannes while Tennessee Williams was presiding the jury. The famous playwright must of found some truth in Scorsese's vision, right?
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9/10
impressive documentary on one of the most mysterious filmmakers of all time
3 July 2006
This impressive documentary covers most of Stanley Kubrick's work, through the recollections of major figures in the film industry that, somehow, came into contact with this legendary director. Tom Cruise's presentation is no good, but all the rest works. Nevertheless, the "great absent" in this picture is Kubrick himself. All the way I was waiting for a glimpse at the real, flesh and blood Stanley Kubrick talking about his work. His voice appears briefly, in a recorded speech about "2001", but he doesn't say anything, really. The absence of significant footage with the central figure of this documentary, enhances the mystery surrounding the resources and hidden agenda behind most of his films. Anyway, while watching carefully one of the many pictures of Kubrick's childhood - the one where he's playing the piano with his sister, you can see something beyond those apparently innocent, childish eyes, something that reminded me of the kid in "The Shining".
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