4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania / 2007

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4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania / 2007

Postby R6dw6C » Sun Dec 02, 2007 9:28 pm

Static camerawork, a strong focus on a limited number of protagonists, rare dialogue, no Soundtrack, dealing with an "important" theme, attemps to avoid everything that could seem lurid, natural acting, stylized images, etc., etc., etc.
Several things you can expect from modern Arthouse cinema or, at least, things which are easy to associate with it. Cristian Mungius Palm d'or-Winner "4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile" is a perfect candidate with the bonus that it's a Romanian movie. Of course, It is also a matter of political correctness to distinguish a Romanian film - the poor country has to be kept in the minds of the crowd. And because of this nice, fair attitude (Attention, irony), Romania could receive its first international film award since a long.

A close look on the film itself reveals, that there isn't really much that distinguish Mungiu's psychological experiment from the tons of european and oriental Arthouse-Films that appeared on the Screens of small cinemas withing the last few years. It feels more than just familiar from the very beginning. It's conventional, it's a bit pretentious (though I expected it to be worse) and it seems to be designed to fullfill the desires of critics, bourgeois Cineastes and, of course, A-Festival-Juries all around the world. In other words: I saw the film I expected to see. Not a compliment.

Almost the film I expected to see. Because, after all, there are a few important things that differents "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days" from other prestigious Arthouse-Films - and they are mainly about its narrative style (the psychological constructions and the whole complex, everything the film is about, are not new or innovative except of the story itself). Those static images - here, they REALLY are part of the concept (I could name dozens of films in which the camerawork is just static to be static): There are three extremely fascinating and brilliant moments in this film: When Otilia (a marvellous authentic Anamaria Marinca) is sitting near the bed in the Hotel room on which her friend, Gabriela lays in wait for the finalization of the abortion, there is almost no Dialogue between her and Gabriela. Yet, this scene contains one of the key moments when Otilia recognizes that the new, negative change in her life wasn't Gabriela's fault (her character is out of the focus) but her own. Not because she organised everything for the abortion but because she didn't insist Bebe, the man who performed the abortion - he wanted to be paid with sex and instead of refusing it, she suggested herself that her devotion would be the only solution for Gabriela's problem. It doesn't matter that Gabriela's own problem became even bigger after that - Bebe also demanded that payment from her. What does matter is her own weakness in a challenging moment - just in this significant moment, she - a strong, independent young woman - wasn't strong enough. Maybe a political analogy as Romania was still under the pressure of a strong communistic government, maybe not. In my opinion, the film isn't political.

Back to the starting point: In this scene, Gabriela speaks to Otilia off screen, the camera remains on side-face on the smoking Otilia. Due to my limited english, I can assure it is hard to describe the things that are special and worthy about "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days" because they will be received by every viewer very instinctive and different - as there are only two of the famous three levels - the obvious, the subliminal and the hidden - may, many will miss the subliminal and without the subliminal, it is hard to catch and tie up the hidden. The way, how the protagonists are seperated - or combined - in one image, though they are almost never alone - is the most interesting thing. There is some sort of psychological rythmn and melody in which Otilia is responsible for the minor tones, Gabriela and Otilia's boyfriend Adi (Alexandru Potocean) for the blue, "in between"-chords and Bebe for some odd, dry major tones. Especially the latter is important as Bebe - though disaffected and full of hate - is far the most vivid and naive character who doesn't reflect about more than the most necessary things. And at least, he is more honest with himself than Otilia and Gabriela are. The most ironic scene of the film is his farewell: Finally, after the two girls proved to be fair and gave him his "payment", there is no need for him to distrust them any longer: He becomes nice and handsome. Of course, neither Otilia or Gabriela appreciate it.

Another remarkable scene is the big dinner of Adi's mother to which Otilia is involved. Whyle she left a bleeding Gabriela in the Hotel Room (of course, naturally bleeding because of the abortion), she sits nervously in the middle of a bunch of bourgeouis elder peoble talking about the most banal things in a very repressive, conversative and insulting way. The camera remains on this scenery for several minutes and nothing happens, even the conversations isn't important anymore. This scene is quite similar to the other scene I described above: Again, the most remarkable aspect is the interposition of a state, a state of the moment which slowly opens to a meta-level when the viewer begins to ignore all the babbling around Otilia, the whole scenery. The following, intimate conversation between Otilia and Adi is an important addition and completion of that sequence.

Overall, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" surely is a fascinating and stimulating cinematic experience. But it is - imo - not a film that has the potential to grow a lot within a third, fourth or fifth viewing. There are too many films like this in existence already, there are too many films that dealt with the same matters in the same way, just in another language and on a different subject. I wish, it would have been more spiritual. It is challenging but not much of that, and it is honest but still too pretentious. I don't think that Cristian Mungiu made that film to win all those Awards but he obviously really wanted to make the film this way - but he sure made it with the image of 100 asking, shouting, smiling and crying critics deep in the back of his head, to make it clear: This film doesn't want to disappoint anybody (except maybe Mainstream-Audiences who would probably be bored to death) and so, it is absolutely not daring, experimental or innovative at all (There must be something wrong with a film that didn't motivate a few people to walk out of the theater, no matter for what reason). It wants everybody to be happy with it (I know, that sounds strange, maybe cynical in front of such a deeply serious subject), to be satisfied with it. I missed something without exactly knowing what - and somehow, I already (I watched it yesterday) remember it as a joint of breathtaking, inspiring and stand-alone scenes and not as a whole film. Maybe that's a bad sign, maybe not. Still, it probably is a new addition to my TOP 25 of 2007. By the way, the same is true with the slightly, but significantly better and truly amazing "Import/Export" by Ulrich Seidl (which I also would like to review but that would be even harder - I don't want to torture you all any longer) which I saw on the same day.

Rated 22 out of 25 with a tendency to 21. Watched in a local cinema in a German dubbed version (which was really poor, maybe it harmed the film a bit) and a wrong aspect ratio of approximately 1:2,00.

Sorry if you had a hard time to understand what I wrote!

* I researched if there wasn't already a thread for this one in existence and couldn't find one - If I overlooked it, I'm sorry.
R6dw6C
 


Re: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania / 2007

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Dec 07, 2007 4:19 am

A fascinating review, R6dw6C.

You may have a point regarding the current shift in the zeitgeist, which will, if it hasn't already, project good, solid films into something else, and in some cases unfortunately so. But then, this occurs just about everytime the "New Wave" mantle gets anointed.

I haven't yet seen 4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile, but I'm looking forward to it. The reviews I've read so far aren't unanimously positive. Some have even suggested that its Golden Palm was in a way for Cannes to level its previous blunder for not having the "superior" The Death of Mr. Lazarescu in competition. We'll see. (It's worth nothing that both films are shot by Oleg Mutu.)

Import/Export is also high on my list of upcoming films.
arsaib4
 

Re: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania / 2007

Postby R6dw6C » Mon Dec 10, 2007 5:16 am

Thank you very much for your respond, arsaib!
I'm glad you maybe took something with you from my review. I don't know if it makes sense - I only know that I would've written a review of the same length but with much more substance and thoughts in it it it were in German - which means: more depth to do the film justice.

I hope, a discussion about this subject is in your interest, I find it quite important:

You already exactly marked what I would call the great disadvantage of modern cinema:

Quote:You may have a point regarding the current shift in the zeitgeist, which will, if it hasn't already, project good, solid films into something else, and in some cases unfortunately so. But then, this occurs just about everytime the "New Wave" mantle gets anointed.

That's the problem. I'm probably not nearly as experienced as you are but in my opinion, It's not a pretentios conclusion to note that there were decades in which there were more different and original, experimental and unusual, daring and artful ways to express certain things in cinema. I think, Arthouse-Cinema (and I'm sad that I feel a need of using this modern word - there were also times in which Arthouse and Mainstream / Entertainment and demand were not separated that strongly - it was just one thing, just cinema then!) nowadays is almost as uniformed as the Mainstream Cinema. The diversity of film languages has increased in a tragic way, I think. It's maybe a bit unfair to discuss this here (because there could be far worse examples than "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"...). Today, everything depends on the little, subtle differences in Independent / Arthouse-Cinema (whatever you want to call it). The difference between films like Carlos Reygadas "Battle in heaven" and "Climates" (the one by Ceylan) is - or seems to be enormous but my feeling as a viewer was quite similar within both films (though they mostly deal with different subjects). And this happens more often with every film of "this kind" (I know that this sounds even more unfair and stupid - "this kind" - but hopefully, you understand what I want to say by that). Just a - maybe inadequate - example: Two films from 1966, Antonioni's "Blow up" and Vera Chytilov's "Daisies". Both films deal with the same subject (mostly) in my opinion. But they both don't deal with it in any way you would expect and both manage to surprise you by their language which adds a demand for a new and challenging development of new receptions - though they are mainly about the same thing(s)!

I hope you don't judge me for this - but I want to be surprised and challenged by cinema, always, over and over again. the most horrible thing is a film that comes up as exactly what you expected it to be. For example, I knew almost nothing about the film this thread was originally dedicated to - but even the small expectations and suggestions I had were confirmed, all of them. Fortunately, there were more than that, but...
I've given up on talking about "Entertainment". If a movie wakes up my interest, it entertains me, if it doesn't manage to get my attention and my interest, it bores me. I'm not looking for Entertainment, I'm looking for interesting positions and point of views, for interesting and enriching, stimulating ways of expression. Cinema has to force the viewer to reflect on different points of view, about his understanding of art and his openness for that new ways of expression. From this perspective, commercial cinema is even more interesting than the work of an auteur - if there are thoughtful and mind-opening bits in an "Entertainment"-film, it will challenge more people to reflect than an "Arthouse"-Film (note the quotes!) which usually reaches mostly limited audiences. A film does not have to be "useful" but if it is, that's not bad at all. That's one of many reasons why I love Paul Verhoeven and Douglas Sirk - their films deliver thought-provoking impulses in a popular but also subtle as well as striking way and they are pure, honest and artificial cinema at the same time. Michelangelo Antonioni is one of my greates cinema-icons of all time - but his films aren't very popular, so this maybe is a slightly egoistic, individual "joy".Sorry for that excursus which maybe seems a bit egocentric to you but I only try to explain a difficult matter in a language that isn't my mother tongue.

After all, I hope I could make myself clear without doing anybody a harm - misunderstandings are unfortunately a wide distributed phenomenon of web communication.

Quote:Some have even suggested that its Golden Palm was in a way for Cannes to level its previous blunder for not having the "superior" The Death of Mr. Lazarescu in competition.

Could be. Such awards unfortunately very often mean nothing as there are many reasons within the jury's decision which shouldn't influence it at all. And to give the Palm d'or to a Romanian film sure is - no matter of intentional or unintenional - a sign of political correctness. Even if there were films which would've deserved it more - they weren't from a "forgotten" country like Romania...
The last film which deserved that award was imo Van Sants amazing "Elephant" while the choice of "The Wind that shakes the Barley" last year was almost... well... at bit disproportional.

Quote:Import/Export is also high on my list of upcoming films.

I'm almost sure you'll like it. Most people (A and Matalo Matango among others;-) thought it was quite unpleasant and hard to get through because of its aggressive display of horrible truths about social catastrophes but if we already know about those catastrophes, a depiction and acknowledge of them mustn't be unpleasant. To me, it was a really comfortable and congenial essay on the whole thing and I'm most anxious to explore more by Seidl. He maybe is the only filmmaker in German language Cinema who manages to combine artificial and metaphorical form with realistic and pragmatic direction.
R6dw6C
 

Re: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania / 2007

Postby hengcs » Tue Dec 11, 2007 4:34 am

This is also on my to watch list.

Somehow, I suspect it will be January or February (after the Oscar) before it is screened locally ... sigh ...
hengcs
 

Re: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania / 2007

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Dec 12, 2007 6:00 am

Thanks for the kind words, R6dw6C

No, its not pretentious to note what you did, but those more different and original, experimental and unusual, daring and artful films were not always considered as such. In most cases, time has made them what they are right now. And the same applies to the films of today. A few decades from now, Im sure well come across individuals wholl look back at this time-period and admire all the great films it contains, and rightfully so, but well know that for every one of those films, there were countless others, lesser ones, which existed but they don't any more. And those same films were present back in the decades we currently admire so much. It could be argued however that they didnt garner as much attention as they do now. I believe films like Blow-Up and Daisies are out there right now, but theyll only blossom into their full potential with time. We can of course predict which films will make it and which wont but one can never know for certain. (You mentioned Climates, which is good enough, great enough, to belong somewhere in Antonionis oeuvre. On the other hand, I think Reygadas film is self-important [it pretends to be high art] and reductive.)

Im not quite sure what you mean by, The diversity of film languages has increased in a tragic way. However, it does conjure up a few thoughts regarding the language we employ to discuss film. I think its fairly limited, especially when compared to our discourse pertaining to other art forms. Perhaps the reason why we have such a tendency to resort to facts. Its a work of art, someone says, and all hell breaks loose. Of course, some still believe that film isnt an art form, or at least not one which exists on the same level as others. They try to demean it by pitting it against others, one on one, even though its a synthesis of music, literature, painting, architecture, etc., and shouldnt be compared as such, I think.

"but I want to be surprised and challenged by cinema, always, over and over again. the most horrible thing is a film that comes up as exactly what you expected it to beCinema has to force the viewer to reflect on different points of view, about his understanding of art and his openness for that new ways of expression. From this perspective, commercial cinema is even more interesting than the work of an auteur..."

Im no longer interested in films that are worth watching or worth my time or belong to any of those other absurd tags. Id rather see something which ultimately falls flat on its face as long as it takes a stab at something.

I believe it was Sarris who once wrote that we are far too close to the popular cinema of today to read it correctly. And I think that applies just as much, if not more so, right now as it did back in the 60s and 70s. I admire your regard for that kind of cinema. You are what Id call a true cinephile. Simply quoting from Truffaut and Hitchcock and watching Keaton on a constant loop isnt cinephilia, which is what the three stooges from The Dreamers thought they were indulging in. And instead of taking a detour to wallow in cine-nostalgia (for commercial reason, Im sure), Bertolucci shouldve gone much, much further in unpacking them and their counterparts in the moviegoing audience.

"The last film which deserved that award was imo Van Sants amazing "Elephant" while the choice of "The Wind that shakes the Barley" last year was almost... well... at bit disproportional."

I agree.
arsaib4
 

Re: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania / 2007

Postby R6dw6C » Wed Dec 12, 2007 9:03 pm

I'll respond to you later, arsaib. This is a very important and up-to-date topic and needs to be handled as care- and thoughtful as a baby (and brings foot-long postings to life...).

@ hengcs:

If you'd hear the Dub I watched the film with, you would be glad to wait for a subtitled version (they don't dub movies in Singapore, don't they?). Hope you'll add a comment when you see it after all!
R6dw6C
 

Re: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania / 2007

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Dec 13, 2007 7:39 am

For those in the U.S., 432 will begin its one week qualifying run for the Academy Awards on Dec 21st in LA. It is scheduled to open in NY on Jan 25th.
arsaib4
 


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