Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Film Atlas (Slovakia): The Sun in a Net

Country: Slovakia
Film: The Sun in a Net / Slnko V Sieti (1962)
Teenagers Fajolo and Bela spend a lot of time on the roof, aimlessly half-dating in a landscape of concrete walls and television antennas. Fajolo likes to take photographs, especially of hands. Bela, perhaps, just likes the attention. Without knowing what they want from each other, or themselves, they easily drift apart. Fajolo 'volunteers' to work at a collectivist farm for the summer which produces little despite the fresh blood and the curative properties of a nearby lake. He writes half-hearted letters to Bela, but flirts with Jana, a fellow worker. Back home Bela lounges about with Fajolo's playboy friend Peto. They read Fajolo's letters together while tanning on a seasonal fisherman's pontoon houseboat, which is also, incidentally and unknown to them, Fajolo's own secret haunt. 

Meanwhile Bela and her brother Milo treat their blind mother with exaggerated care, sensing her frail emotional condition and unspoken family skeletons. The sibling bookends the film by dictating descriptions of his surroundings for his mother's sake, actually soothing lies, first of a rare and spectacular eclipse (in reality, totally obscured by clouds) and lastly of the view from the pontoon, visited one final time. "The water is like a mirror" says Bela, as they stare at a dried up lake bed. And perhaps she's right.

Arguably the birthplace of the Czechoslovakian New Wave, The Sun in a Net introduced a playfully experimental style and a willingness to flout 'correct' Socialist Realist attitudes. The censors must have squirmed a bit trying to parse director Stefan Uher's film, which coyly sidesteps explicitly political topics and critical generalities, while managing to suggest a pervasive decay undermining the official version of things: couples don't stay together, parents are busy with their own pain, families are tense. Cities are cloying but communes are a bore. 

Uher simultaneously walks another tricky tightrope: filming malaise, without inducing it. He does so with a practiced eye and ear for the rhythms of teenage moods; the way youths are fickle and immature and yet more conflicted and intelligent than outsiders realize. The black and white cinematography is crisp and textured, with perfectionist compositions that transmute simple flats and fields into complex engaging scenes. The editing (perhaps the hallmark of the movement's innovation) has flashes of provoking contrast, juxtaposing two places, two moments, two people, one in front of the eyes and one in front of the mind; as when Fajolo has a stab of yearning for Bela while swimming with Jana or stares at a laborer's hands and remembers a model's in an ad. The Sun in a Net may be academic, melancholic and transitional, but it's also compelling and very much alive.

My Favorites:
The Cremator
The Sun in a Net
The Return of Dragon (1968)
The Shop on Main Street
Pictures of the Old World
The Boxer and Death
Celebration in the Botanical Gardens
Birds Orphans and Fools

Major Directors:
Dusan Hanak, Juraj Herz, Juraj Jakubisko

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Film Atlas (Singapore): Ilo Ilo

Country: Singapore
Film: Ilo Ilo (2013)
Ilo Ilo is a sensitive, small-scale drama about a family weathering the financial stress of the 1997 Southeast Asian recession and the emotional friction of mid-life crises, marital strain and flagging family ties. Hwee Leng is pregnant with a second son they can't really afford, while thanklessly and rather resentfully shouldering the weight of being the head of the family and primary breadwinner (her company is rapidly downsizing and frequently asks her to write the termination letters) while struggling with feelings of isolation and depression. Teck, her husband, has lost his job and tries to earn a living by cold-selling badly tempered glass and working nights as a security guard, but feels too humiliated by his drop in wage-earning status to tell his family the truth. And as though he needed another secret to further alienate his marriage, he resumes smoking late at night. Their son, Jiale, is the center of the plot. He's an attention-starved trouble-maker more interested in his Tamagotchi (remember the nineties!) than his grades. 

The film begins with the family hiring Terry, a Filipino maid with a child of her own back home. She slowly begins to change the dynamic, with the initially abusive Jiale not so much becoming less of a brat, as thirstily responding in positive ways to Terry's persistence and physical contact. Hwee Leng is jealously heartbroken to observe her son's deepening bond, but is too harried by her job and other responsibilities to be the mother she'd like to be. Unable to fix all her family's problems or repress her conflicting emotions, she feels pushed into a villain role culminating in her admitting the painful reality that she cannot continue to afford Terry. In realistic rhythms of good days and bad, all the members of the household gradually come to better terms with the disappointments, small blessings and inevitable compromises of contemporary life in the city.   

Ilo Ilo, the debut film of 29-year-old director Anthony Chen, managed to win the 2013 Golden Horse for best film (increasingly regarded as the top prize in Chinese-language cinema), a first for Singapore and a surprise upset in a field consisting of larger-budget higher-profile critical darlings Wong Kar Wai, Jia Zhangke, Johnnie To and Tsai Ming-Liang.

I love 'period pieces' set in the recent past, eras still in living memory but at enough distance to be freed from topical agendas. But despite Ilo Ilo's precise attention to time and place, part of its success comes from its detailed, intimate, and cross-culturally familiar engagement with the everyday accumulations of stress and the major adjustments and minor sacrifices that families make to cope. Chen's tender and yet honest script is packed with the type of characterization depth and realism that makes viewers understand, and even like, difficult, complicated, fallible characters and has us rooting for their surges of strength, especially their hard-fought determination to keep trying in the face of (for the family) career instability, financial setbacks, parental insecurity and marital doubts and (for Terry) homesickness, limited rights, racism towards migrant workers and separation from family. Yet the film doesn't excuse their weaknesses, defects and occasional outbursts. 

The acting is crucially allowed center stage, growing and adapting to changes in narrative and production realities (including lead actress Yann Yann Yeo's real-life pregnancy) to provide an emotional arc that satisfies without relying on heavy melodrama or plot contrivances. On that note, Chen's nigh-unfashionable naturalism, free from slow-cinema self-consciousness, stylistic and structural clutter and broad social commentary, is refreshingly straight-forward and not without a sense a humor. By the end, I found myself pleasurably exhausted, as though rather than watching a fictional family for a couple hours, I'd been adopted for several turbulent, formative months.

My Favorites:
Ilo Ilo

Major Directors:
Eric Khoo

Monday, April 28, 2014

Film Atlas (Serbia): Underground

Country: Serbia
Film: Underground / Podzemlje (1995)
Part 1: War. Marko and Blacky are two high-spirited best friends drunkenly living it up as smalltime thieves in 1941 Belgrade. The Nazi's bomb the city and Ivan, Marko's stuttering younger brother and town zookeeper, is witness to the chaos and destruction of the city as his exotic animals escape across the ruins. The Germans occupy the town so Marko sets up a clandestine shelter for communist partisans in the enormous cellar of his granddad's house. He eventually retreats into the hideout with a large contingent of refugees, including Blacky's wife Vera, who promptly dies giving birth to Jovan. Three years later Markos is selling weapons made in the cellar-turned-factory  which Blacky then sells to the resistance forces. On Jovan's birthday Blacky gets drunk and kidnaps actress Natalija, his former mistress, during the middle of an execrable theatrical performance. 

They hold a wedding on a nearby boat but Franz, a German officer that Natalija strings along to obtain medicine for her brother, crashes the party. Blacky is captured and tortured with electroshock at a nearby asylum, but he's been immunized by his former career as a pole-climbing electrician. A disguised Marko is able to rescue him, however during their escape Blacky is seriously injured by his own grenade. While he recovers, Marko hooks up with a very willing Natalija. They dance in the street as Allied bombs rain down, signifying that WWII is drawing to a close.

Part 2: Cold War. It's twenty years later (1961) and Marko is now a close military advisor to Yugoslavian dictator Tito. He has kept the People's Army supplied with guns by exploiting the imprisoned citizens (including Blacky) of his subterranean community, who are convinced, by elaborate lies maintained by Marko, that the war still rages on above-ground. Jovan is now 20 years old, and he is celebrating his marriage to Jelena, both of whom have never seen the sky or any other part of the outside world. During the celebration, Ivan's pet monkey, Soni, enters a tank built by the cellar-dwellers and fires a round through a wall, allowing him, Ivan, Blacky and his son to escape into the sewers. Blacky and Ivan unwittingly come to the surface near the set of "Spring Comes on a White Horse," a ridiculous war movie based on Marko's dishonestly self-aggrandizing memoirs. Blacky kills the actor playing Franz, mistaking him for the real thing, and then hides out at a riverside camp. Distracted by a helicopter sent to pursue the murderers, Blacky loses track of Jovan, who, inexperienced and greatly-overwhelmed, drowns in the river. The youth sinks into the depths where he is reunited with Jelena, who has since jumped into the underground shelter's well believing herself abandoned.

Part 3: War. In 1992, a much traumatized Ivan has found his way into Berlin via a secret underground motorway that connects European capitals. There he has laid low while nursing the delusion, fueled by his language barrier, that the Germans won the war. He is still searching for his monkey. A researcher meets with Ivan, learns of his past and tells him the truth: that Yugoslavia is no more and that his brother betrayed him. Ivan goes searching for revenge amid the chaotic violence of the Balkan wars, where Marko has become a notorious international arms dealer. Nearby, Blacky fights on as an independent warlord still loyal to his hopelessly idealistic nationalist dreams and desperate to find his son, whom he hasn't admitted is dead.

Underground is a sprawling war epic unlike anything else you've seen, and despite it's nearly three hour length it's so charged with energy, inventiveness, passion, tragedy and humor that it rushes briskly by to the tune of an indefatigable brass band. It's no accident that it took me four paragraphs just to present the winnowed-down highlights of the overpopulated plot, whose towering ambition is nothing short of a 50 year history of Balkan conflict framed as a fairy tale modernization of the biblical Cain and Abel. The multi-talented director Emir Kusturica takes the betrayal of family, friends and ideals (A German misinterpreting Ivan's past as allegorical admits that, "communism was one big cellar."), the endless cycle of warfare (the three-part structure of War, Cold War and War isn't hard to deconstruct) and human nature's affinity for fabrication (Marko's grandly "beautiful" lie, the film set mistaken as the real world, Natalija's madness-inducing dual-role as Marko's wife above and Blacky's wife below, etc.) as powerful and deeply-felt central themes, and yet the film is devoid of art-film pretentiousness and is often laugh-out-loud funny due to its over-the-top performances and morbidly inspired absurdity. Visionary images both comic and tragic stuck in mind more than a decade after I first saw Underground: a lion roaming rubble, Marko shining his shoes with a black cat, Jovan's birth illuminated by a bike-light peddled midair, the dusty orange utilitarianism of the shelter, a riverboat lit up like a Christmas tree, Jelena soaring above her wedding, trucks carrying human cargo through Dantesque tunnels, Blacky caught in a fishing net, a war-ravaged church bullet-proofed with tires, a burning wheelchair circling a broken man, a banquet breaking free of the mainland and drifting downriver and the list goes on!

My Favorites:
Time of the Gypsies
I Even Met Happy Gypsies
W.R. Mysteries of the Organism
Black Cat White Cat
Three (1965)
Strangler vs. Strangler
Love Affair or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator
Death of a Man in the Balkans
Innocence Unprotected
The Parade (2011)

Major Directors:
Emir Kursturica, Dusan Makavejev, Aleksandar Petrovic, Slobodan Sijan

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Film Atlas (Senegal): Hyenas

Country: Senegal
Title: Hyenas / Hyenes (1992)
The dusty Senegalese town of Colobane has fallen on hard times. Business has dried up. Government services are non-existent. The people live in poverty. But a rumor brings good news: Colobane expatriate Linguere Ramatou, now famous and obscenely wealthy, is paying her hometown a long overdue visit. The mayor, the town priest and well-respected shopkeeper Dramaan Drameh hope to restore the local economy and line their own pockets by extracting a generous donation. Since Dramaan was once Linguere’s girlfriend he is nominated as spokesperson and, with studied insincerity, tries to renew their past relationship. But Linguere, who has aged into a formidable, enigmatic queen with prosthetic limbs and a chilly demeanor, has other plans. 

Linguere still bitterly remembers that Dramaan not only jilted her as a teen in favor of the previous shopkeeper’s daughter, but also hired false witnesses to drag her name through the mud when she found herself pregnant with his child, now dead. She has long meditated her revenge and, in the meantime, made slaves of the judge and witnesses who condemned her. After settling in, she announces her intention to shower the town with money if only Dramaan Drameh dies; no questions asked. Initially the good citizens balk, but Dramaan begins notices a rise in customers wearing expensive new yellow boots and buying from him on credit. As the mayor, police chief and all his so-called friends, one-by-one, turn their back on him, Dramaan struggles to accept his inevitable fate.

With Hyenas, director Djibril Diop Mambety adapts Friedrich Durrenmatt’s classic play The Visit, but gives it added political and economic significance in the context of the African debt crisis. Though Colobane’s citizens are in desperate straits they are, in a strange way, united by their mutual poverty and can scoff with offended dignity at Linguere’s bailout offer. But the patient Linguere easily destabilizes the community simply by sitting back and letting greed erode their moral high ground which, as Mambety and Durranmatt cynically reveal, they never had in the first place. Mambety’s style is calm in the face of Dramaan’s mounting hysteria, almost distant, dramatizing the corruption of the town as an inexorable slide.  The framing and staging are intentionally claustrophobic (especially the final scene, which is impressive considering that it takes place in an immense canyon), emphasizing not only the tightening noose around Dramaan, but the hemmed in status of the whole town, choked by need, greed, financial debts and guilty consciences.

Senegal is also home to author-director Ousmane Sembene, widely considered the father of African cinema, whose prodigious literary and cinematic works have influenced the region for over five decades. A close runner-up for this project was Sembene’s landmark ‘Black Girl’ (1966), likely the first feature film by a Sub-Saharan director, and his most sophisticated films, 'Guelwaar' about an assassinated Christian accidentally buried in a Muslim cemetery and 'The Campe at Thiaroye', about French-African infantryman returning home after WWII only to find that their service has not immunized them to racism.

My Favorites:
Today / Tey / Aujourd'hui
The Camp at Thiaroye
Black Girl (1966)

Major Directors:
Djibril Diop Mambéty, Ousmane Sembene

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Film Atlas (Saudi Arabia): Wadjda

Country: Saudi Arabia
Title: Wadjda (2012)
Wadjda is the name of a young girl, an only child, living in Riyadh with her mother. Her father visits occasionally, but there's a great deal of domestic friction. His family would like a male heir and Wadjda’s mother can’t risk another childbirth, so the pressure is on to take a second wife. Since Wadjda's mother works at a women-only hospital at the end of a very long and tiresome commute, the girl has learned to be resourceful and independent. She braids soccer bracelets and compiles mix tapes to sell at school, raising money to buy a bicycle so that she can race against her best friend, Abdullah. At school she runs into difficulty with Ms. Hussa, her strict Islamic principal, who dislikes Wadjda’s tomboyish pursuits and religious laxity. But Wadjda figures out a way to kill two birds with one stone: win over Ms. Hussa and earn some serious money by joining the school’s Koran club and besting them in a competition spanning comprehension and recitation. Meanwhile, Abdullah comes over to hang lights on the roof for his uncle’s upcoming political campaign and begins teaching Wadjda how to cycle. The day of the tournament arrives, but little goes according to plan.

Waad Mohammed, as Wadjda, makes a compelling debut in the central role, and her performance pushes an already excellent film into greatness. Her intelligence and determination earn our respect while her rebellious spirit makes us complicit in her every minor crime (although many are not-so-minor in contemporary Saudi Arabia). The clash between her ebullient personality and her fundamentalist environment is riveting, frustrating and insightful. Director Haifaa al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia’s first female director, is careful to show that although Wadjda strains against her cultural and religious confines, this world is also her home. Her love-hate relationship with her homeland is a blasé fact of life; she knows how far to bend the rules and where to eke out entertainment. This lived-in realism is frequently invigorating and uplifting (perhaps more so than an outsider would expect), allowing the film to cultivate a complex emotional tone in which ups and downs are mixed in every facet of her life. Flashes of love, understanding and triumph take place in the personal sphere beneath the public surface where institutional oppression remains implacable.

Wadjda takes a clearly feminist stance against the religious-state system in which women are not to be seen in public and rarely heard, have limited education and career opportunities, no political voice, and are expected to take exclusively subservient roles as wives and mothers. Al-Mansour handles this issue as part of Wadjda’s coming-of-age narrative. The viewer isn’t able to forget that women are treated as second-class citizens because it is impossible for Wadjda to forget. It trickles into every aspect of her life: when a male construction crew is on a nearby roof her class can’t play outside, she can only sneak peeks at a next-door political rally, to travel around town she must ask Abdullah to accompany her, her father’s family tree doesn’t bother to include the women, etc. But what’s especially rare for a movie with such a vocal message is that the opposition is not portrayed as one-dimensional villains. Even Ms. Hussa is human (we get hints that she may be overcompensating for her own feelings of suffocation), and although I find Wadjda’s father despicably weak, his love for his daughter feels genuine. The film’s real bad guys are faceless: the predominantly unseen but ubiquitously felt status quo of patriarchy, dogma and repression. Wadjda and her mother (their relationship being the film’s other strong point) have little choice but to endure as best they can, and to treasure even small victories.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Film Atlas (Samoa): The Orator

Country: Samoa
Film: The Orator / O Le Tulafale (2011)
The Orator opens with raining coming down on large elephant-ear leaves. Saili, a Samoan dwarf, silently emerges and begins clearing the area around his parent's tombstones. He carefully moves snails and hacks down the taro plants with a machete. We later learn that this is a regular ritual for Saili, incurring the wrath of the taro plantation on which he is trespassing. Saili lives nearby with his wife, Vaaiga, an exile from her ancestral village, and his daughter Litia, whose flirtations have raising the ire of their clannish community. Saili has a token job as a night watchman, but his birthright is as a chieftain and orator (something like a cross between a spokesperson, minister and teacher). Saili is intelligent and proud, but his diminutive stature, lack of confidence and local unpopularity have prevented him from succeeded his father and left him withdrawn and bitter. Even tougher times lie ahead, forcing Saili to deal with his anger, stubbornness and fear.

The Orator is a warm, glowing film, shot with an eye for the stately grace and vibrant hues of the region. The film is dominated by lush greens and golden sunlight, but without feeling like a postcard or vacation advertisement, perhaps because we feel the locations foremost as a daily home and active community; a community which goes about its business regardless of Saili's non-participation. It also helps that for all the exquisite cinematography, this is absolutely a character-driven story with Saili's internal struggles front-and-center. Director Tusi Tamasese never defines Saili by his dwarfism and actor Fa'afiaula Sanote never gives into simplifications or reductions of what he must deal with. I think the film is largely about dignity and the ever-popular theme of standing up for yourself, but it is as much about resisting the temptations of the opposite extreme: pride, selfishness, obstinacy. It's also a film about the Samoan people and their culture, with the rare wisdom to throw the viewer into the deep end and trust us to learn and understand through context.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Film Atlas (Russia): The Dawns Here Are Quiet

Country: Russia
Title: The Dawns Here Are Quiet / A Zori Zdes Tikhie (1972)
Sometime during WWII Sergeant Vaskov is running an unimportant anti-aircraft encampment far from the German front. Discipline is slack and the base has a reputation for drinking, carousal and fraternization with the local women. After failing a military inspection, Vaskov’s men are reassigned and he's given new soldiers less susceptible to the same old problems: an all women unit. Vaskov initially has trouble taking the new recruits seriously, maintaining authority and crafting them into an effective fight force, but he soon warms to them and earns their trust. In the second part of the film Vaskov leads a small team of five women to capture German paratroopers that were seen landing in a nearby forest. After crossing difficult terrain they find themselves facing a superior force, better trained and better armed. Vaskov and the five women are put to the test, knowing they have little chance of survival.

The nostalgia-saturated lightly-comedic first act of The Dawns Here Are Quiet caused me to drop my guard. I enjoyed the send-up of laidback military outposts, the mildly gender-progressive character development and the black-and-white woodland and swampland scenery, but I quickly and quite wrongly wrote this off as not likely to be the classic war film that Russian critics had claimed. That’s because director Stanislav Rostotsky carefully ‘carefree’ setup is all about drawing you in so that when the tone switches to a war-is-hell, guns-can-jam, anyone-can-die game of cat-and-mouse you just aren’t prepared, much like the main characters. 

Rostotsky does an excellent job establishing the stakes despite the small-scale (6 vs. 16) of this obscure skirmish. The limited cast helps means more time to establish each woman individually, counter to the genre’s tendency for spectacle-driven clashes between waves of faceless grunts. We grow to understand and like these Soviet soldiers; to know their strengths and weaknesses. We share Vaskov’s pride in their bravery, cunning, stealth and increasing competence; like many of the best war films, this is about outthinking an opponent that you can’t outgun. We also feel Vaskov’s pain, cracking through his stoic face, as he accepts their likely fates.

My Favorites:
The Dawns Here Are Quiet
Ivan's Childhood
Leviathan (2014)
Letter Never Sent
Hamlet (1964)
Come and See
The Mirror
Wings (1966)
Happiness (1934)
Strike (1925)
I Am Twenty
Trial on the Road
The New Gulliver
Solaris (1972)
The Cranes Are Flying
Battleship Potemkin
King Lear (1971)
The Return
Burnt by the Sun
The Forty-First
The Ascent
The Amphibious Man
The Cat Who Walked By Herself
The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1966)
Jolly Fellows / Moscow Laughs

Major Directors:
Boris Barnet, Yevgeni Bauer, Mark Donskoi, Sergei Eisenstein, Mikhail Kalatozov, Marlen Khutsiev, Nikita Mikhalkov, Kira Muratova, Vsevolod Pudovkin, Larisa Shepitko, Alexander Sokurov, Andrei Tarkovsky

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Film Atlas (Romania): Forest of the Hanged

Country: Romania
Film: Forest of the Hanged / Padurea spânzuratilor (1965)
Forest of the Hanged follows a group of disparate East European soldiers serving the Austro-Hungarian army in WWI. We are introduced to Apostol Bologa (Victor Rebengiuc, who reminds one of Anthony Perkins with a hint of Peter O'Toole) at dusk on a muddy hillside where a Czech deserter named Svoboda will be hanged. Bologa ruled against Svoboda and supervises over the hasty, ill-organized death sentence. A Romanian forced to fight against his own people, Bologa is already racked with guilt and his nerves further deteriorate over the following days. He and his officer friend Klapka (a coward played by director Liviu Ciulei) become fixated on a powerful searchlight that the enemy uses to harass them and which his artillery unit is mysteriously unable to hit. Despite its negligible military value,  Bologa leads a suicidal assault that neutralizes the target and he is briefly declared a hero.

However his victor's request to be transferred to another front so that he doesn't have to kill his Romanian brethren is interpreted as treason. Outside the commandant's house, he is criticized by Muller, a pacifist, who points out that Bologa is trying to cheat his conscience: killing men of any nationality is a sin. Bologa plans to desert that night, but his side leads a charge where he is injured and sent on leave to recuperate. He returns home but finds himself unable to reintegrate into the carefree world of his father and fiancé. Back at the front he proposes to Ilona, a peasant girl (mistaking his longing for innocence and purity as love) only to be asked to oversee another trial: 12 farmers, including Ilona's father, who dared to plow their fields in the combat zone. Bologa, knowing that the graves are being dug in advance of the verdict, makes a final decision to flee.

In the entire 158 minutes of Forest of the Hanged we never see an enemy soldier or anything that feels like a battle. Liviu Rebreanu, author of the 1922 source novel, is concerned not with combat and logistics, but with psychology and, as Bologa puts it, the "moral impossibility" of war. The invincible searchlight is established as a vivid metaphor for Bologa's guilty conscience, but destroying it only temporary drowns out the guilt without resolving anything. Klapka initially defends the beam, "There is so much darkness that every light is welcome," but the fear that his own cowardice will be exposed soon expresses itself as hatred for the light as well. The only ones willing to face the truth head-on are a Polish doctor (when an Austrian complains that the men have been spoiling dinner by talking of the execution for a full three hours, he points out that humanity has been talking about the execution of Christ for centuries) and Muller (who quarters in an antique carriage behind a tannery, obscured by mountains of boots and curtains of belts). Both of them die. Muller, in one of the film's many interwoven subplots, is taken on a 'patrol' (actually a hush-hush execution) by an old man who agrees to the assassination in exchange for his son being withdrawn from combat.

In addition to being an incredible treatise on wartime compromise, sin and guilt, Forest of the Hanged is also a masterpiece of cinematography. The opening hanging alone could fill a chapter-length study. Ciulei makes even his long takes restless and jumpy, choreographing elaborate camera movements that sweep, pivot, zoom, crane and reframe as if desperately trying to understand this miscarriage of justice. Edits fling us absurdly far out from the action and then throw us abruptly back in: near the crowd, the accused, the executioner, until it is all mixed up. Svoboda barely murmurs a word, but in his face is everything: confusion, fear, disbelief, resignation. Behind him is the dying sun, later resurrected as the searchlight. And even before all this there's the shot introducing Bologa (when we've no idea he will be the main character) approaching the godforsaken gallows from a distance and framed, for a foreshadowing moment, by the empty noose.

My Favorites:
Forest of the Hanged
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
Then I Sentenced Them All to Death
4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days
Tuesday After Christmas
Stone Wedding
Child's Pose

Major Directors:
Liviu Ciulei, Cristian Mungiu, Corneliu Porumboiu, Cristi Puiu