Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Restul e tăcere

A curious and exhilarating mixture of American epic proportions and sweet candy stuff with European elegance and ability to nitpick on subtle things, Nae Caranfil’s Restul e tăcere (The Rest Is Silence) handles more than one thread with aplomb and an equal amount of zest. Fictionalizing the true story of the making of the 1912 Romanian film The War for Independence, the film sets the tone at the very beginning itself: presenting hardboiled nutty issues surrounded in a soft yolk of humor and irreverence.

Where the film excels is that it does not take any sides, except telling the story. It never suggests that the hero Ursache is really someone who is an artist, and even the story and detailed visualisation of the movie might be all his dead friend’s. But what his friend might never have been able to do, he does successfully: by the sheer dint of his ambition, and lack of scruples when he knows what he wants. And yet a man who keeps the god living in him: while all his co-stars are enjoying prostitutes of Paris, he is busy with the movie rolls gathering, and silently loving the young ambitious village girl who he knows is already on the path of trailing rich men for meaty roles and money. His strong mental-headedness is even more in the focus during the sombre climax of the film: he not only has realized that cinema is here to stay and even if it’s not as great as theatre yet it is the medium which can go to the masses and can help them relax and can bring ideas to them, but also that cinema is a collective effort, and roundly stymies the efforts of his wealthy benefactor and the film producer Negrescu of including him among the defrauders of money. He also finally takes his revenge upon Negrescu: the two coins that God made a beggar to give Negrescu might have been a symbol, but what’s more important is not to pass on rhetorically those two coins but to be the same man who once slept on the roads and not pick your nose on hearing the ticket was only 1 leu.

Ioana Bulca’s appearance strikes a fresh gong: the inevitability of the death of the golden age of theatre. The photographed moving image are only shadows of living fleshes, but the world can remember them, at least get some percentage of what those actors were. Yes, theatre would’ve been a different experience, but cinema would at least enable people to feel the same emotions and vitality, even if in much muted proportions or even distortedly. With the typical European peppy feel, a rich music score, and the biggest ever budget in Romanian film history, the film easily takes you off your feet: the only remaining grouse is that the film could’ve well been edited a half an hour shorter. The performances of Marius Florea Vizante as Ursache and Ovidiu Niculescu as Negrescu completely dominate the film, and the rest of the actors jigsaw perfectly in. A movie only Europe can give!

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