May 17, 2007

Cannes. 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days.

"Pitch perfect and brilliantly acted, 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days [4 luni, 3 saptamini si 2 zile] is a stunning achievement, helmed with a purity and honesty that captures not just the illegal abortion story at its core but the constant, unremarked negotiations necessary for survival in the final days of the Soviet bloc," writes Jay Weissberg for Variety of the Romanian Competition entry.

4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days

"Certain to be spoken of with the same regard as The Death of Mr Lazarescu, with which it shares DP Oleg Mutu, pic is envisioned, like that surprise hit, as the first in a series, ironically titled 'Tales From the Golden Age.' [Cristian] Mungiu's goal is to visualize the overwhelming weight of the soul-destroying compromises of life during the Ceausescu years through clear-eyed, deeply humane stories."

Updated through 5/24.

"The film is dark, gloomy and without music, but it is also observant and highly suspenseful, with Mungiu using his often static camera to balance banal cruelty with simple generosity," writes Ray Bennett for the Hollywood Reporter, adding that it "boasts an exceptional performance by Anamaria Marinca [and] may not break out of the festival and art house circuit, but it is likely to pick up some awards along the way."

Marinca is "an instant front-runner for Best Actress," declares Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab. "Negotiation and solidarity are the twin subjects of this quietly impressive docudrama, and Mungiu's commitment to verisimilitude is so scrupulous that he deliberately introduces the equivalent of Chekhov's famed gun without the slightest intention of providing a final-act payoff."

Updates: "Mungiu set his tale of a very late abortion in 1987 and uses an unobtrusive yet utterly filmic style that mixes the handheld dogme aesthetic with beautiful static shots to great effect," writes Boyd van Hoeij at "As uncomfortable as the final form of payment is for the girls, Mungiu makes it ten times worse for the audience, using an excruciatingly precise combination of mise-en-scène and actor choreography that will leave no one untouched."

"[I]n due course this will easily beat most other, far more pretentious, arthouse products being peddled around," writes Dan Fainaru for Screen Daily. "The leads, Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasiliu, never put a foot wrong, giving remarkably controlled and unaffected performances which are an enormous asset for this well-rounded, precisely attuned work."

Updates, 5/18: "If the subject matter is grim, that doesn't mean one isn't exhilarated by the assured writing and direction, the superb hand-held Scope camerawork, the brilliant way the film combines rigorous moral enquiry with a suspenseful but entirely plausible 'realist' narrative, or a magnificent lead performance from Anamaria Marinca," writes Time Out's Geoff Andrew. "With films like this, it's hardly surprising that festival-goers are currently seeking out Romanian movies with an enthusiasm that hasn't been there for years."

Writing for Stop Smiling, Patrick Z McGavin finds 4 Months... to be "a wrenching and morally complex study of loss and violation.... If this movie is a sign of what is to come, the festival's 60th edition could be a special one, artistically."

Update, 5/19: "The movie has a formal rigor familiar to the more serious Cannes entries: virtually every scene, no matter how long, is shot without cutting," write Richard and Mary Corliss for Time. "That can be an enervating strategy, but here it works marvelously, either forcing the characters together as reluctant conspirators or isolating each in his or her predicament.... [T]he tale is so compelling that it seduces viewers as a fairy tale does a child. They simply must know, as the plot knot coils tighter around the characters, What Happens Next."

Updates, 5/20: "Mungiu constructs scenes in single takes, often with an unexpectedly steady handheld camera positioned Ozu-style at the same level as his characters," writes Robert Koehler at "This tends to create a barely perceptible (at first) pressure that builds inexorably to an astonishing sequence in which Mungiu's women (Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu) are forced into an awful business arrangement with an abortionist (Vlad Ivanov, in one of the most astonishing supporting performances since R Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket, and equally as fierce)."

"At several points, Mungiu's stark thriller channels Hitchcock, with ominous props picked up and left for curious viewers to contemplate their future usage and a waiting telephone that completely steals one of the scenes," writes Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE. "A haunting portrait of Romania and the lies and cruelties that make humanity go round, the movie stands as the best in the official competion so far."

Update, 5/21: "My favorite film in the festival - if 'favorite' can be applied to something so harrowing and gruesome - is the brilliantly acted and composed, but almost unwatchably horrible Romanian drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," writes the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw.

Update, 5/24: "This is a searing film, shot in something close to real time, in long, unbroken takes that wrap around you like a vise. At this stage of the festival, it seems almost certain to win a major prize," writes Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly. "Yet, as you might imagine given the subject matter, it is also the kind of movie that causes potential distributors to run from the theater like cows from a burning barn."

Update, 5/28: "Mungiu's movie is simple and powerful: it moves smoothly forward and becomes steadily more gripping with a narrative flow that looks easy," writes the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. "It is very grim stuff, which Mungiu succeeds in turning into a parable for the wretchedness and squalor of everything in 1980s Romania: there is no question of any 'Ostalgie' for the communists here."

Update, 5/29: "With its long-take choreography and low-key naturalism, 4 Months unavoidably evokes The Death of Mr Lazarescu (both films were shot by Oleg Mutu), but, lacking the universality and metaphysical ambitions of Cristi Puiu's film, can't help suffering in comparison," writes Dennis Lim at IFC News.

Updates, 5/31: "Mungiu is now back in Bucharest and is determined to keep working in his native country - and on his own terms." Nick Roddick in the Guardian on the director and the story behind his film.

A euro|topics dossier includes translations of reactions to the film's win in papers across Europe, including Romania.

Update, 6/1: The Telegraph's Sheila Johnston meets Mingui.

Update, 6/2: Nigel Andrews talks with Mingui for the Financial Times.

Cannes @ 60. Index.

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Posted by dwhudson at May 17, 2007 8:17 AM