“Tuesday, After Christmas” (Marti, dupa craciun, 2010) is the latest film from Romania to hit the film festival circuit and cause a stir. I saw it at this year’s Chicago International Film Festival.
A great many of the films coming from Romania have all been fiercely political. There was “12:08 East of Bucharest” (A Fost sau n-a fost, 2007), “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” (4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile, 2007), “How I Spent The End of the World” (Cum mi-am petrecut sfarsitul lumii, 2006) and the movie which started this recent “new wave” in Romanian cinema “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” (Moartea domnului Lazarescu, 2006). But “Tuesday, After Christmas” is much different. There is absolutely no mention of politics or even social injustice.
The film follows Paul Hanganu (Mimi Branescu) who is married to Adriana (Mirela Oprisor, whom some may recognize from Francis Ford Coppola’s “Youth Without Youth” (2007), they have a daughter as well. But what is not known is Paul has been having an affair with Raluca (Maria Popistasu). The rest of the film addresses Paul’s dilemma in having to make a choice. He simply cannot go on leading two lives.
Some of the buzz at the film festival concerning this film has been that it is very slow and nothing happens. I heard remarks like this even from the people who liked the movie. Those that didn’t like the movie told me they kept waiting for something to happen. I’m not exactly sure what these audience members were expecting though that wasn’t the impression I was left with watching this film.
If by “nothing ever happens” people mean there are no explosions, fight scenes and alien battles, then, yes, they are correct. But the movie is filled with emotion. In fact I have rarely seen a movie as emotionally sincere as this. We understand Paul’s predictiment. We understand what consequences his choice will have on the women in his life. There is no easy answer. I personally found that element of the film gripping. What exactly will Paul do?
The film was directed by Radu Muntean. He is one of the new faces in Romanian cinema. He directed “The Paper Will Be Blue” (2006) a film about the Romanian Revolution. It also played at the Chicago International Film Festival and unfortunately never found distribution in this country. Here though Muntean displays a true understanding for how to capture people at their most vulnerable. After Paul makes his decision I felt a certain awkwardness in the scenes which followed. He is able to capture the uneasiness within the characters and the situation.
The performances are flawless. I wouldn’t change one thing about this film. Everyone comes off as natural. Each performance is believeable. We can see ourselves in these characters. Everyone reacts to situations in a realistic manner. Nothing is overdone and overblown here for dramatic license. This is life.
With the current interest in Romanian cinema I can only hope the film finds distribution in this country. I have a good feeling it will. “Tuesday, After Christmas” is a film not to be missed. The cinematography is rather simple but emotionally it is complex. The film is nothing short of brilliant.
Alex Udvary @ Blog
Over the last four years, filmmakers from the small Eastern European nation have swept into the south of France every May and put far bigger, more storied film cultures to shame, the U.S. and the fiercely proud host country among them. It started primarily with the critics’ favorite “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” in 2006, continued the following year with the powerful abortion drama “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” (which won the Palme d’Or) and hasn’t abated since, with last year’s “Police, Adjective” and “Tales from the Golden Age” worthy entries in the so-called Romanian New Wave.
This year the streak continues — and perhaps gets even stronger — with “Tuesday, After Christmas,” an infidelity drama from a director named Radu Muntean who’s been here several times before. We caught his new movie, in the festival’s Un Certain Regard section, at its Thursday press screening and were close to blown away. Muntean’s movie is a remarkable, pitch-perfect work, as convincing and affecting a portrayal of the subtleties of modern life and marriage as you’ll find on the screen.
The film is peopled by little more than a married, 40-ish man named Cristi (Mimi Branescu) who’s having an affair, his serious but not unsympathetic wife, their preteen daughter and the daughter’s orthodontist, with whom Cristi is engaging in said extra-martial activity. Things get hairy from the start for Cristi, as he’s consumed by guilt (not to mention logistical issues) in his attempts to keep the affair a secret, then get emotionally complicated as he juggles his feelings and relationships with the two women (as well as his daughter).
It all sounds very ordinary, or even pedestrian, by art-house film standards. But if cinematic genius is taking a story we think we’ve seen before and telling it an entirely fresh way, Muntean is ready for Mensa. There are no melodramatic hysterics of the kind you’d see in the U.S. “Terms of Endearment”-esque version of the tale; even the movie’s climactic showdown feels wonderfully restrained. It’s simply absorbing, authentic storytelling, with filmmaking that’s distinctly stylized but never distracting. And the performances are insanely good.
Steven Zeitchik @ LA Times
The first Romanian realist film in Un Certain Regard (we strain to avoid any cheap “new wave” categorization) is Radu Muntean’s absolutely and completely respectfully straightforward Tuesday, After Christmas. It is a film that picks its subject—a man juggling marital infidelity—and its style—‘scope long-take medium shots of deeply naturalistic situational dialog—and thoroughly and successfully executes the modest mission it sets out for itself.
One could decry a lack of ambition, or even the strange complaint of white elephant, as even in the supposedly freer context of naturalistic form and content the film remains so purely calculated and set to a single goal of drama that it has a feeling of occluding airtightness. Indeed, there is something so pure about the film that it resembles a concept; with its 3-wall mise-en-scène and limited, anti-theatrical blocking of the actors (who do little to explore space and more often talk or barely move with arms crossed and minimal expressive spatial movement), Tuesday, After Christmas resembles a hypothetical situation drama, transposing sitcom aesthetics to the seriousness of form (long take) and subject (small scale interactions in an immoral, adult situation).
The result is a bit gluey, with little pacing to the film, as all energy is devoted individually to each separate long-take scene, making a push through the film a markedly viscous experience. The atmosphere and form is so singular that the subject, drama, and characters seem arbitrary. While the decision the cheating man has to make by the film’s end is morally very interesting, especially in comparison with Rohmer’s take on similar situation in his Moral Tales, one feels Muntean could get the same slowly evolving and devolving interest and insight levels from just about any given human interaction. I suppose that’s a compliment, but it also reinforces the ultimately interchangeable/programmatic nature of this fine film.
Daniel Kasman @ mubi.com