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Contemporary Romanian Cinema

Contemporary Romanian Cinema: The History of an Unexpected Miracle

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Contemporary Romanian Cinema
    Book Description:

    Over the last decade, audiences worldwide have become familiar with highly acclaimed films from the Romanian New Wave such as4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days(2007),The Death of Mr. Lazarescu(2005), and12:08 East of Bucharest(2006). However, the hundred or so years of Romanian cinema leading to these accomplishments have been largely overlooked. This book is the first to provide in-depth analyses of essential works ranging from the silent period to contemporary productions. In addition to relevant information on historical and cultural factors influencing contemporary Romanian cinema, this volume covers the careers of daring filmmakers who approached various genres despite fifty years of Communist censorship. An important chapter is dedicated to Lucian Pintilie, whose seminal work,Reconstruction(1969), strongly inspired Romania's 21st-century innovative output. The book's second half closely examines both the 'minimalist' trend (Cristian Mungiu, Cristi Puiu, Corneliu Porumboiu, Radu Muntean) and the younger, but no less inspired, directors who have chosen to go beyond the 1989 revolution paradigm by dealing with the complexities of contemporary Romania.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53669-1
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Dominique Nasta
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    The entry on ʹRomaniaʹ in theHandbook of Soviet and East European Films and Filmmakers, published in 1992, opens with the following assessment:

    Like Romania itself, Romanian cinema has remained obscure. The sparse international distribution of its films has made it remote and unfamiliar. Until recently, it has been aesthetically insignificant, adhering rigidly to the somehow formulaic necessities imposed by filmʹs illustrative and ideological functions in a totalitarian regime. For these reasons, Romanian cinema has not gained the world stature of other Eastern European cinemas. (Roof 1992: 309)

    Some twenty years later, things have changed radically. Not only has Romanian...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Difficult Beginnings
    (pp. 3-16)

    A Latin island set in a sea of Slavic neighbours, Romania is a country that has consistently felt close to identities and sources that were somehow out of reach. The issue of national identity has always been at the centre of socio-political debates, numerous invasions having left the country with little energy to catch up with the rest of Europe. As Catherine Durandin rightly notes:

    Romaniaʹs history is related to its frontiers. Situated at the extreme frontier line of the Roman Empire, Romania borders the Byzantine Empire, close to the Ottoman invasion line, and finally acts as a frontier line...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Bright Intervals: Romania’s Short-lived Thaw
    (pp. 17-26)

    For Dina Iordanova, the 1956–1968 period between two revolutions (in Hungary and Prague) coincides with Khrushchevʹs Thaw in Russia and corresponds to a process of liberalisation in terms of themes and style. The transition that ultimately led to the emergence of the 1968 Prague Spring, but was suppressed the same year by the invasion of Warsaw Pact forces, only occurred on a minor scale in Romanian cinema. The recognised and internationally acclaimed New Waves were Polish and Czechoslovak. Important isolated auteurs came from the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania (Iordanova 2003: 9).

    In the late 1950s Romanian...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Romanian Cinema in the 1970s: Versatility on the Menu
    (pp. 27-46)

    The end of the Romanian Thaw – which lasted less than a decade – was characterised by two events. On the one hand it was specified in the 10thParty Congress Report in August 1969 that the new society would be superior to capitalist societies from all perspectives, overtly criticising former established contacts with the Western world. On the other, after a trip to China and North Korea in May 1971, Ceaușescu was highly tempted to introduce methods of indoctrination used by Maoʹs Cultural Revolution. The politicised media thus initiated the publication of the famous July 1971 Theses. Liberalisation movements...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Dan Piţa: A Filmmaker for All Seasons
    (pp. 47-56)

    Though Dan Pițaʹs ground-breaking debut in docu-fiction as well as his films co-directed with Mircea Veroiu have been discussed earlier in relation to the peripheral trend of the 1970s, his polymorphous, almost paradoxical oeuvre does call for a separate chapter. Pița remains an extremely interesting figure in the context of Romanian cinema. There are several reasons justifying this status. First, there is his unusual longevity: his career has spanned more than thirty years, starting in the early 1970s and continuing well into the first decade of the twenty-first century. Second, there is his highly versatile nature. He has approached and...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Mircea Daneliuc: Romanian Cinema’s Rebel with a Cause
    (pp. 57-72)

    Mircea Daneliuc unquestionably stands as the most important Romanian director of the 1980s, while also proving relatively prolific and thought-provoking during the immediate post-Communist period (five films from 1991 to 1995). As was the case with other auteurs, his work has only been partially shown to non-domestic audiences and still needs to be reconsidered for a number of reasons. The first and most important one relates to the fact that despite enormous difficulties, Daneliucʹs films managed to escape Communist censorship, while bringing to the fore extremely authentic characters and situations, thus constituting an invaluable picture of Romanian society. The second...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The 1989 Moment: Film and History in the Early 1990s
    (pp. 73-84)

    Romaniaʹs break from Communist dictatorship engendered by the 1989 revolutionary moment was obviously different from similar phenomena going on in most East European countries. Most importantly, it was almost entirely and sometimes excessively filmed by professional film and television crews and by numerous amateur cameras. In Ricoeurʹs terms,time of fictionandhistorical timefor once coincided (Ricoeur 1990, III: 129). Such a situation had very long-term effects on the future history of Romanian cinema. These effects were felt in the early documentaries, domestic and foreign docu-fictions, shorts and feature-length films of the early 1990s and followed their trajectory through...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Through a Glass, Darkly: Lucian Pintilie as Past and Present Role Model
    (pp. 85-120)

    This chapter closely scrutinises the narrative structures and unique style of Lucian Pintilie, the most influential Romanian filmmaker to date. Pintilie miraculously managed to bridge the gap between the short-lived Thaw and the post-revolutionary period, re-integrating into the domestic film industry after a forced artistic exile of almost twenty years.

    Part of the first generation of film school graduates from the late 1950s for whom cinephilia was a common practice, Lucian Pintilie made his debut as an assistant to veteran director Victor Iliu,² was briefly employed by Romanian national television and directed two important feature films in the late 1960s,...

  13. CHAPTER 8 The Films of Nae Caranfil: A Taste of Turn-of-the-Century Sophisticated Comedy
    (pp. 121-138)

    The filmmakers of the Romanian New Wave have acknowledged its huge debt to Pintilie, the only internationally acclaimed Romanian director who continued his oeuvre after a long exile into the post-Communist era, while maintaining the same high artistic standards. This debt is evident, first, in the young filmmakersʹ quite generalised, albeit economically conditioned, refusal to produce big-scale spectacular movies: action films unfolding in exotic locales studded with national and/or international stars and lots of special effects, ideally backed by a fashionable score, with lots of easily recognisable musical hits. It is evident second, and somewhat implicitly, in their artistic credo:...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Short Films on the Crest of the New Wave
    (pp. 139-154)

    With only a handful of isolated directors having received domestic and international recognition and only a few feature films produced on the brink of the new century, a decade after the end of Communism, Romanian cinema was still a ʹwhite spotʹ on the map of world cinema (Corciovescu 2002).

    However, starting in 2001, that spot became more and more visible for critics and audiences in the festival circuit, getting its ʹprimary coloursʹ thanks to a previously neglected sub-genre, that of short films. This phenomenon had far-reaching consequences. Romanian shorts, mostly fictions presented by newcomers as part of the final phase...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Less is More: Puiu, Porumboiu, Muntean and the Impact of Romanian Film Minimalism
    (pp. 155-180)

    This chapter will focus on three of the most important representatives of the minimalist trend in Romanian cinema: Cristi Puiu, Corneliu Porumboiu and Radu Muntean. Their pioneering films were mainly produced between 2005 and 2007, coinciding with Romaniaʹs global success via what has been called the4, 3, 2phenomenon, to be dealt with in the next chapter.

    Two authors, who also contributed to Pintilieʹs screenplay forNiki and Flo, are largely responsible for the creation of the minimalist model: Cristi Puiu and screenwriter/novelist Răzvan Rădulescu, from whose incisive and metaphysical writing technique almost all the important recent films originate....

  16. CHAPTER 11 The 4, 3, 2 Paradigm: Cristian Mungiu’s Large-scale Phenomenon
    (pp. 181-200)

    Cristian Mungiuʹs4 Luni, 3 săptămâni si 2 zile(4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, 2007), the first Romanian Palme dʹOr winner, certainly confirmed the triumph of the minimalist model in terms of acting, cinematography, editing and highly original soundscapes. It also highlighted one of the most controversial subjects of the Ceauşescu regime, illegal abortion and its tragic consequences on numberless female destinies.

    Born in 1968, Mungiu first studied English and American literature and trained as a journalist and short story writer for various magazines. A graduate of the Bucharest Film School, he served as assistant director to Bertrand...

  17. CHAPTER 12 Making Films for Wider Audiences: Romanian Cinema Turns Global
    (pp. 201-220)

    If my main focus has been on contemporary art-house, mainly minimalist, non-commercial films which have received worldwide acclaim in spite of modest production costs and tight shooting schedules, other interesting creations from young, previously unknown creators of the Romanian New Wave emerged between 2003 and 2007, benefiting from previously non-existent shooting and production facilities.

    Meanwhile, within the Romanian film industry, established auteurs previously discussed in more or less detail such as Dan Pița, Mircea Daneliuc, Mircea Mureşan, Dinu Tănase and Nicolae Mărgineanu continued to be active, but unfortunately did not always manage to keep the same high artistic standards as...

  18. CHAPTER 13 Romanian Exilic and Diasporic Cinema: The Case of Radu Gabrea
    (pp. 221-230)

    Quite a few Romanianémigréactors, directors, cinematographers and producers from the first decades of the twentieth century have left a national imprint on their subsequent careers abroad or decided to return home from their exile for a short or extended period of time. Renowned early cinema performers such as Elvira Popescu (a.k.a. Popesco) and Alexandru Mihalescu (a.k.a. Mihalesco) had some domestic film and theatre experiences before embarking on successful French careers. Other contemporaries born in Romania and having chosen France or Germany as their second homeland, such as innovativeKammerspielactor and director active in the early 1920s Lupu...

  19. Conclusion
    (pp. 231-236)

    After difficult beginnings, uneven improvements, sparse moments of accomplishment during a short thaw, Stalinist-inspired state censorship control over all aspects of the film industry, and post-Communist difficulties in catching up with Western standards, several encouraging conditions marked a twenty-first-century revival of Romanian cinema. Over the last decade, the emergence of an authentic New Wave secured Romania more prizes in film festivals than any other country: Romania, a peripheral European country, has turned into a bright spot on the map of world cinema.

    When I first started writing this book I had a different subtitle in mind,Eastern Europeʹs Unexpected Cinderella,...

  20. notes
    (pp. 237-250)
  21. filmography
    (pp. 251-257)
  22. bibliography
    (pp. 258-264)
  23. index
    (pp. 265-268)