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#1 Darrel Manson

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 10:02 AM

This Palme d'Or winner is coming in late January. It's been making the festival circuit (next is AFI Fest in L.A. in Nov.). Has anyone seen it? It's the Romanian offering for a Best Foreign Language Oscar.

It has a couple of press screenings this month and a press day early in Nov. Lots of lead time for a Jan release.

From the screening invite:
QUOTE
In 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS, college roommates Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) and Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) are busy preparing for a night away. But rather than planning for a holiday, they are making arrangements for Gabita's illegal abortion and unwittingly find themselves burrowing deep down a rabbit hole of stark realities and ugly truths. Transpiring over the course of a single day, Mungiu's film is an immersive masterwork of naturalism, by turns poignant, shocking and darkly comedic. The latest in a recent Romanian renaissance (THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU, 12:08 EAST OF BUCHAREST), it features virtuosic camerawork by Oleg Mutu (LAZARESCU) and a riveting performance by Anamaria Marinca. This is breathless, bracing filmmaking, which critics worldwide have been heralding since its premiere at Cannes.


#2 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 11:11 AM

Darrel Manson wrote:
: This Palme d'Or winner is coming in late January.

Late January!? I could have sworn the last press release I saw said the film was opening in November -- but maybe that's just Canada.

At any rate, I saw it a few nights ago at the VIFF with the intention of possibly writing about it for the November issue of BCCN, and I liked it quite a bit.

It's possibly an even more balanced treatment of illegal abortions than Vera Drake. In a nutshell, the awful social ramifications and personal hypocrisies that pro-choicers are likely to point to are definitely on display here, but the grisly sight of a dead fetus and the callousness of tossing it away that pro-lifers are likely to point to are also on display here (and they weren't in the Mike Leigh film, as I recall). You could hear murmurs in the theatre when the fetus is first shown. And what difference would legalizing abortion make, on that level? Fetuses would still die and be thrown away -- but perhaps the women who have the abortions would not have to SEE or DO any of this themselves. (I figure if I, a meat-eater, can handle films that depict the slaughter of animals, then pro-choicers should be able to handle films that depict this, too -- so I don't necessarily see the depiction of a dead fetus as a pro-life tactic. But the film does underscore the ambivalence that at least one of the women feels: she has the child aborted, but she wants the fetus to be buried, not thrown away, and she wants her friend to take care of it for her.)

And of course, all of this is presented within the context of Eastern European Communism circa 1987, where society is showing signs of decay all over the place anyway. It's all done very well, and it's definitely a film worth seeing.

#3 Arni Danielsson

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 04:40 AM

This film was screened at the Reykjavik International Film Festival last week. It is excellent in it's treatment of the subject matter and I think it could well be used as a conversation starter for those wishing to discuss abortion. What struck me and stuck with me is how powerful it is as a film. The cinematography is excellent and together with the editing it draws you in and in some scenes keeps you captive (in particular I'm thinking of a dinner party scene around the middle of the film).

#4 Darrel Manson

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 10:11 AM

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Oct 11 2007, 09:11 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Late January!? I could have sworn the last press release I saw said the film was opening in November -- but maybe that's just Canada.

IMDB doesn's show a Canadian release date, but it shows UK Jan. 11 and US limited release Jan. 25. It does open in Argentina, Germany and Finland in Nov. My guess is US opening is timed to be right around time of Academy nominations.

#5 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 15 October 2007 - 07:19 PM

a.daniels wrote:
: It is excellent in it's treatment of the subject matter and I think it could well be used as a conversation starter for those wishing to discuss abortion.

Just wondering, to what degree do you think the film is really "about" abortion, and to what degree is abortion being used as a symbol for something else?

: What struck me and stuck with me is how powerful it is as a film. The cinematography is excellent and together with the editing it draws you in and in some scenes keeps you captive (in particular I'm thinking of a dinner party scene around the middle of the film).

Yes, that's a fantastic scene.

Darrel Manson wrote:
: IMDB doesn's show a Canadian release date . . .

FWIW, I got another e-mail recently which said the local press screening will be next week Tuesday (the 23rd), and the film will open here on November 2.

: . . . but it shows UK Jan. 11 and US limited release Jan. 25. It does open in Argentina, Germany and Finland in Nov. My guess is US opening is timed to be right around time of Academy nominations.

That makes a certain sense, though I wonder why the UK would be getting it so late.

#6 Darrel Manson

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 09:00 AM

QUOTE (a.daniels @ Oct 14 2007, 02:40 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
This film was screened at the Reykjavik International Film Festival last week. It is excellent in it's treatment of the subject matter and I think it could well be used as a conversation starter for those wishing to discuss abortion. What struck me and stuck with me is how powerful it is as a film. The cinematography is excellent and together with the editing it draws you in and in some scenes keeps you captive (in particular I'm thinking of a dinner party scene around the middle of the film).
The rule of thumb they used was one shot per scene, which means there are very long takes, and lots of action and dialogue going on off camera. I thought that gave the film a disturbing feeling. It seems much more natural and intrusive than the common editing back and forth between people talking. It puts you there in ways that most films don't.


#7 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 09:02 PM

Jeffrey Wells, take one:
I finally caught up with Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days last Friday...whoa. The praise that came out the Cannes Film Festival (where I was clumsy enough to miss it) led to expectations of something solid, commendable and probably disturbing. But I didn't expect to see a masterpiece, which is what this "Romanian abortion film" absolutely is. . . .

This may sound like a glum Eastern bloc procedural, perhaps something to suffer through or check your watch by. It's not cheerful, agreed, but the transcendent art and style of this film is so penetrating that the drabness is soon forgotten or ignored. This is a haunting moral tale and a psychologically tense suspense film, as well as the most persuasive anti-abortion argument in any form I've ever heard, seen or read. . . .
Jeffrey Wells, take two:
Naturally, alert Right-to-Lifers (like deaconforlife's Peter J. Smith and John Jalsevac) are going to write about and promote the film among the faithful when it opens next January, and they'd be dumb not to do that. . . .

But I'll bet that most Right-to-Lifers, who primarily live in the "red" regions, will avoid this film in droves, and not just because this IFC Release won't find much of a reception among hinterland exhibitors. It's my belief that most of the Christian anti-abortion crowd -- i.e., the ones who voted for Bush-Cheney in '04 in order to keep Christian values from being weakened or usurped by liberal Democrats -- are largely xenophobic when it comes to sampling foreign cultures and their films. . . .
I was almost relieved when he posted that second item. It seemed unlike Wells to comment on a film of this sort without taking a dig at conservatives somehow -- all the more so when his reaction to the film in question could possibly be perceived as putting him in bed with those same conservatives!

Anyway, when I read his first post on this film, I just went "Wow!" and had to blog it right away. Given how relatively cautious some pro-life fans of this film have been, I was struck by how Wells, who is anything but a right-winger, just flat-out stated that the film was on the anti-abortion side -- and without counting that against the movie!

#8 Darrel Manson

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 09:24 PM

Hmmm. Anti-abortion? I would say it leans that direction, but it is important to know the context -- both that it is back alley abortions and the setting in Romania in the late days of Communism. The fact that it shows a dead fetus is not in itself anti-abortion, I think

The press kit includes this from Mungiu:
QUOTE
The historical context
In 1966, a law banning abortion was imposed in Romania. The effect was immediate: up to the early seventies, there were several huge generations of children, a few times more numerous than the generations before 1966. The average number of children in a classroom increased from 28 to 36. The number of classes in school increased from 2 or 3 to 9 or 10. When I entered school, there were seven Cristians in my class -- there were not enough names to go around. Women quickly started to resort yo illegal abortions. By the end of communism, reliable sources say that more than 500,000 women had died as a result. In that context abortion lost any moral connotation and was rather perceived as an act of rebellion and resistance against the regime. After 1989, one of the first measures taken in a free country was to legalize abortion again. The consequence was almost one million abortions in the first year -- a number far greater than any country in Europe. Even today, abortion is still used as a method of contraception in Romania, with more than 300,000 cases being reported annually.


As I did some research, abortion has always been popular in Romania. Just before it was banned, there were over 1,000,000 in a year -- about 4 times more than the number of live births. The rate per 1000 women between 15 and 44 was 238 (I think that's the right number, it's close at any rate) which means 1 woman in 4 had an abortion. The ban cut down the abortions, but they were always there.

Romania it turning out to be a country to be watched. Mr. Lazarescu, 12:08 (which I'm hoping to get soon) and now this. It's still a bit inbred perhaps (DP and editor were both on Lazarescu, for example), but a group of filmmakers who seem to have a good way of saying what they want to say.

BTW, next week there is a press day while Mungiu's in town for the AFI Fest. If you have questions for me to try to get in, drop me a PM.

Edited by Darrel Manson, 23 October 2007 - 09:27 PM.


#9 Christian

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 09:04 AM

The thing about Wells’ post that leaped out at me was his confession that he’d arranged abortions for two ex-girlfriends. The way he writes that is open to some interpretation, but I assume Wells was the boyfriend who got the girls pregnant, not some knight who bailed them out of a desperate situation with another man later on.

If my assumption is correct, the post has an even deeper meaning, because Wells (I’m reading into his post here) saw something in this film that gave him serious pause. Sure, he doesn’t want to be associated with the “Bush right-wingers,” but something’s gnawing at the guy’s soul.


#10 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 02:33 PM

Christian, I agree re: Wells, and a part of me wants to know what he meant when he said he left the theatre "changed" -- but I wouldn't want to, like, pry the information out of him or anything, lest we kill the chrysalis by trying to let it out too soon.

Darrel, there are one or two interesting quotes from the director in this LifeSiteNews.com story that Wells linked to, regarding how people should think about the "consequences" of their decisions. This does not necessarily mean he is taking an anti-abortion stance, but it is an interesting comment nonetheless -- all the more so because, as Victor Morton notes, the actual DECISION to have the abortion actually takes place before the movie begins. (Hence, this is NOT a movie like Vera Drake, in which people debate the pros and cons of abortion. That debate, if it existed at all for these characters, is in the past.) Although I suppose the second scene between Otilia and her boyfriend begins to point in that direction; then again, the real thrust of that scene works on an entirely different level.

#11 Darrel Manson

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 06:39 PM

QUOTE (Peter T Chattaway @ Oct 24 2007, 12:33 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
This does not necessarily mean he is taking an anti-abortion stance, but it is an interesting comment nonetheless -- all the more so because, as Victor Morton notes, the actual DECISION to have the abortion actually takes place before the movie begins.

In the press notes, Mungiu says that there was only one scene that was shot but not included, a scene where Gabita's father shows up (an early scene mentions he's coming) and in that scene, the decision is talked about. Perhaps the choice to cut that scene works for the good.

#12 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 02:59 AM

Jeffrey Wells says he has heard that the film -- which has already left Vancouver after only two weeks! -- is getting a mixed reaction from the Academy:
"Some felt it was a masterpiece and others didn't," according to a publicist. The journalist says he heard that some complained that Cristian Mungiu's film is "too slow" and that some "didn't like the fetus on the floor shot." The publicist says that "some complained about Oleg Mutu's static camera work" as well as "some of the hand-held tracking shots."
Didn't like the fetus on the floor, huh?

Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 18 November 2007 - 03:01 AM.


#13 Darrel Manson

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Posted 24 November 2007 - 08:32 PM

Update: This opens in LA 12/21 for a one week qualifying run.

Official openings Jan 25 in NY and Feb 1 in LA

Fredell Pogodin, who is the LA publicist for this, has added still more screenings. They did some in October before the press day with Mungiu. They have 3 more that they have set up for the next couple of weeks.

Buzz I overheard at another press day says that this isn't the lock for a foreign movie nomination that was once thought.

Edited by Darrel Manson, 24 November 2007 - 08:33 PM.


#14 DecaturJosh

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Posted 26 November 2007 - 10:27 PM

I saw it in Toronto and thought it was a brilliant depiction of Eastern bloc life during the last days of The Cold War. The long, claustrophobic shots inside flourescent lit highrises and the politics of class were as powerful as the way the issue of abortion is dealt with. I got to interview the director, Christian Mungiu, and he talked about this being part of a series of "Tales From the Golden Age," looking at Romanian life in the late 1980s. However you feel about abortion, it's pretty fair-minded and definitely worth watching.

By the way, a couple of other films that deal with the abortion issue (one more tangentially) are Bella and Tony Kaye's Lake of Fire. I'd love to hear what any of you thought of either of those, but I'm too new to post new topics. I really liked Bella despite the absolute panning it received from critics (though it won the Jury Award at Toronto in '06) and though Lake of Fire was a refreshingly balanced approach (even if it did spend a lot of time on the fringes of both sides).

#15 Darrel Manson

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 12:06 AM

Josh: here are the threads on Lake of Fire and Bella

#16 Christian

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Posted 30 November 2007 - 10:37 AM

Good movie, probably great, although I've been thinking a lot lately about critics' tendency to affix the word "masterpiece" to anything that has a verite style and a complete lack of sentimentality (the latter being key). This applies to the Dardennes brothers' movies as well, although there's a religious element at work in their films that I didn't get from "4 Months."

The fetus-of-the-floor shot is essential to the movie's balanced look at abortion: Can you imagine how the film would play without it? But I think the abortionist's sexual blackmail and end coversation, in which the two women agree "never" to discuss what happened, is probably the key to the film. The film struck me, despite what the press notes say, more as a look at -- maybe a metaphor for, or a microcosm of -- the crimes against humanity that occur under Communist rule, and how the people who participate, and the governments themselves, conceal those crimes after the fact, whether out of shame, or to avoid criminal charges.

Anyone agree?

#17 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 30 November 2007 - 12:01 PM

Full agreement here, Christian.

I mean, abortion is never even mentioned in the first third of the movie, but we DO get a good look at all the black-market transactions and whatnot that go on in the lives of these people -- students dealing in contraband goods, people bribing other people with foreign cigarettes, etc.

#18 Overstreet

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 03:56 PM

Snubbed by the Academy.

#19 Christian

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 04:44 PM

So this happened not because of eligibility rules, but because the film simply wasn't deemed worthy by the small group that decides these nominees? Unbelievable. Heck of a movie.

#20 SDG

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 04:58 PM

What Xn said.