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International Spotlight: Romania

Though critics cry “New Wave” all too easily when a national cinema starts popping up at all the right film festivals, there’s definitely something in the water when it comes to contemporary Romanian film. And I’m not just talking about Cristian Mungiu’s lauded abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, which carried off the Palme D’Or at Cannes last month and was due to play the Los Angeles Film Festival until it was pulled by its distributor. From Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu to Corneliu Porumboiu’s 12:08 East of Bucharest, Romania is taking a sardonic yet loving ax to its autocratic past and chaotic present. In LAFF’s spotlight on Romanian film, Radu Muntean’s excellent The Paper Will Be Blue plays like a prequel to 12:08, which focused on a provincial TV talk show host 16 years after the revolution, trying to get a bead on what happened in his town the day Ceausescu was ousted. Muntean takes us back to the night of the revolution itself, December 22, 1989, and follows a militia unit assigned to peace-keeping duties on the anarchic streets of Bucharest as it tries to track down a conscript who’s defected. A deft impassive comedy laced with looming tragedy, the movie addresses both the confusion of cataclysmic social change and its consequences for innocent lives. Less successful is Cristian Nemescu’s 45-minute Marina From P7, a drama about a boy in love with a hooker on the mean streets of Bucharest that takes its stylistic cues from Italian neo-realism and methodically converts them into cliché. Better to stick with the accompanying short, The Tube With a Hat, a delightful 23-minute piece about a father trying to get the ancient family TV fixed for his stolid little boy, which suggests the benefits of capitalism haven’t quite made it to Romania. The Paper Will Be Blue screens Sun., June 24, 4:45 p.m. at The Landmark & Wed., June 27, 9:45 p.m., at the Italian Cultural Center. Marilena From P7 and The Tube With a Hat screens Sat., June 30, 10 p.m., & Sun., July 1, 5:15 p.m., at the Italian Cultural Institute.—Ella Taylor