Forthcoming: 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days

The scuttlebutt on Criterion, Eclipse, and Janus Films. Lists and polls are STRONGLY discouraged.
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filmnoir1
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4 Months, 3 weeks and 4 days

#51 Post by filmnoir1 » Wed Jun 18, 2008 5:26 pm

This is easily one of the best films of 2007. The simplicity of the style allows the viewer to become enmeshed in the harsh reality of life behind the Iron Curtain and to embrace the painful struggles of its characters. The relationship between Ottila and Gabita serves as a metaphor for the pangs of sisterhood and more importantly illustrates that there is still a great deal of work to be done in teaching people about women's rights.
The illicit methods required to help these young women are heartbreaking and perhaps prescient if men like John McCain have their way and Roe vs. Wade is overturned in the US. The level of intimacy and bravery on display in this film in the way it addresses these young women's day-to-day existence in this harsh and repressive state may be read on multiple levels and this is one of the reasons that this film will remain relevant and of interest.
Also what this film demonstrates is that Romania is a thriving film community where simple style is used to address very dark and complex issues like abortion, memory, friendship, and the pressures of life in a authoritarian state. For a comedic approach to these issues see 1208 East of Bucharest.

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domino harvey
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#52 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 05, 2008 3:48 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days... the American release has aspect ratio issues anyway (it's 1.78:1 when it should be 2.35:1. R2 is the way to go regardless of where it's being sold, unless it's fixed for its October [re-]release.
It looks better opened up in 1.78. There is however an entire page of the DVDBeaver thread where Gary throws a temper tantrum at me and David Hare for saying so.

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mfunk9786
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#53 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Aug 05, 2008 3:50 pm

Doesn't mean it's the intended ratio, though.

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domino harvey
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#54 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 05, 2008 3:51 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:Doesn't mean it's the intended ratio, though.
There's no evidence that it wasn't intended to be both. It looks too good at 1.78 to not have been considered with both aspect ratios in mind. It seriously looks like shit in 2.35 and Gary's caps actually convinced me to seek out the R1. Take that

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#55 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Aug 05, 2008 3:57 pm

[checks dvdbeaver]

You prick. Why do you always have to be right?

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foggy eyes
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#56 Post by foggy eyes » Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:34 pm

domino harvey wrote:It seriously looks like shit in 2.35 and Gary's caps actually convinced me to seek out the R1. Take that
Really? I like the fact that there are DVDs with both ratios in existence, but it looks much better to me in 2.35: tighter and more claustrophic. The sense of confinement works especially well in the dinner sequence, and strikes me as a much more effective balance of form and content - 1.78 feels too open, somehow less volatile.

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domino harvey
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#57 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:45 pm

2.35 cuts off heads and 1.78 preserves the full subjects. I'm sure 4:1 would really sell the claustrophobia, time to tape cardboard on the top and bottom of your TV's screen :P

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foggy eyes
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#58 Post by foggy eyes » Tue Aug 05, 2008 5:15 pm

domino harvey wrote:2.35 cuts off heads and 1.78 preserves the full subjects.
Sure, but that doesn't strike me as particularly important here - the mobile camera is too agitated and restless, and the principal subjects always very vulnerable in space (no time for preservation). If head-chopping is the sole argument for 1.78, we should probably start letting a whole bunch of filmmakers (from Assayas to Watkins) know that they've been screwing up their movies all this time.

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domino harvey
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#59 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 05, 2008 5:20 pm

"Static" springs to mind far more readily than "mobile" for this one

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foggy eyes
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#60 Post by foggy eyes » Tue Aug 05, 2008 5:34 pm

True, the camera isn't relentlessly mobile, but the set-ups certainly aren't static. Mungiu pursues the characters if necessary - the lengthy tracking shot that follows Otilia down the corridor, into the shower room and back out again at the beginning is a perfect example.

Edit: confused names of Otilia and Gabita - now corrected.
Last edited by foggy eyes on Tue Aug 05, 2008 6:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Andre Jurieu
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"Finally! Somebody said it!"

#61 Post by Andre Jurieu » Tue Aug 05, 2008 5:48 pm

foggy eyes wrote:
domino harvey wrote:2.35 cuts off heads and 1.78 preserves the full subjects.
... If head-chopping is the sole argument for 1.78, we should probably start letting a whole bunch of filmmakers (from Assayas to Watkins) know that they've been screwing up their movies all this time.
I have to agree with foggy eyes on this one. Of course, I'm also not sure how much the "static" versus "mobile" camera argument affects the question of framing within the film. It seems far more important to concentrate on how the central characters are placed within the frame.

I watched the film twice last year in theatres (at two separate film festivals in different cities) and the film was projected at 2.35 at both screenings. Granted the screening coordinators could have both screwed it up, but it seems unlikely.

The entire "cut off heads" argument that keeps popping up whenever we have these discussions concerning aspect ratio seems to fall apart once you watch any movies in a theatre. Characters regularly have their heads cut off within "static" shots, even within films by directors which everyone around here considers to be masters of the medium. Acclaimed directors usually worry about other aspects of the scenes rather than whether or not they will show every inch of their actor's cranium, since it generally does not effect the content of their scenes. As long as Otilia is preserved within the dinner-sequence shot, I doubt that the Mungiu will lose sleep over whether we can analyze the hair styles of the other characters that travel freely within the shot.

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foggy eyes
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Re: "Finally! Somebody said it!"

#62 Post by foggy eyes » Tue Aug 05, 2008 7:03 pm

Andre Jurieu wrote:Of course, I'm also not sure how much the "static" versus "mobile" camera argument affects the question of framing within the film.
Not much I suppose, other than the correlation between the nervousness of the camera when 'static' and its compulsion to keep pace with the characters (no matter how jerky the movement) - the resultant dynamic alters the position of the subjects within the frame more readily.
It seems far more important to concentrate on how the central characters are placed within the frame.
Yup. All this strikes me as almost the complete opposite of what happened with Paranoid Park in 1.85, where the head-chopping and cumbersome re-orientation of figures in space is hugely damaging - the 'big square' that Van Sant wanted becomes a kind of familiar rectangle, truncating the very careful positioning of Alex and the other kids within the more 'open' ratio of 1.37.

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#63 Post by hot_locket » Wed Aug 06, 2008 6:33 am

Can someone confirm 100% that 2.35 is the intended AR, for which the film was definitely composed? Or is Mungiu just a crazy guy who doesn't give a shit either way? My local art-house theatre is terrible at framing and projecting the films they get, so I'm not sure what I saw it in. I'm guessing it was 2.35, though, because a lot of heads were cut off.

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#64 Post by Sheriff Chambers » Wed Aug 06, 2008 8:22 am

Definitely 2.35:1. Avoidance of head-chopping might have been a strict rule of the classical style but with constantly moving hand-held cameras those rules are long gone (even for a lot of contemporary mainstream cinema - which often seeks to replicate trends established in other modes of film practice anyway). Artificial Eye’s DVD is 2.35:1 and I would certainly trust AE to get it right. But an odd choice of AR for this film.
Last edited by Sheriff Chambers on Wed Aug 06, 2008 8:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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foggy eyes
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#65 Post by foggy eyes » Wed Aug 06, 2008 8:31 am

hot_locket wrote:Can someone confirm 100% that 2.35 is the intended AR, for which the film was definitely composed?
Well, not really, that's the problem - although it's worth noting that it has been predominantly projected in 2.35 in cinemas (on the basis of festival screenings and UK exhibition). Personally I also believe 2.35 is more accurate and 'definitive' (major festivals don't take this stuff lightly, and despite the occasional screw-up AE don't either), but others here don't - you can of course take your pick of the two DVD releases.

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Jeff
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#66 Post by Jeff » Wed Aug 06, 2008 2:19 pm

foggy eyes wrote:Well, not really, that's the problem - although it's worth noting that it has been predominantly projected in 2.35 in cinemas
It can only be screened 2.35 in cinemas. Even though it was shot on Super 35 (and the negative has a native ratio of about 1.66), prints are standard anamorphic 35mm. They take a 2.35 extraction from the negative, squeeze that extraction to fit on standard 35mm film and project it with anamorphic lenses, just like they would do with a film shot in anamorphic Panavision. The projectionist can't really do much with the composition.

The problem lies in the cinematography itself. When the film was shot, the cinematographer would actually see a 1.66 image on his monitor with several different frames drawn on it so that he could see what it would look like at 2.35, 1.78, 1.33, etc. A cinematographer who is very experienced with Super 35 (like Roger Deakins) can compose the 2.35 image beautifully while protecting for other ratios. In my opinion, the problem with 4 Months is that the 2.35 image wasn't composed very well at all. Even if that was the ratio they hoped would look the best, and struck prints accordingly, it didn't work out that way in my opinion. Despite the film's other considerable merits, the cinematography (when I saw the film theatrically), struck me as kind of sloppy. By opening the image up to 1.78, the cinematographer is given a lot more "wiggle room," which can cover up a lot of bad composition.

I don't think that we should assume that the young director of this Romanian film is calling the shots on the DVD release in any region. The production company supplied a master to its different distributors worldwide. Obviously, IFC got a master which included the full negative ratio that they could compose how they wanted. They were likely supplied this since they would be handling television broadcasts as well. Distributors in other regions may have been given a master taken from an answer print that had already been framed at 2.35.

There is nothing wrong with differing opinions here. There is no "right answer." I already offered my take in a different form on an archived Beaver thread. That discussion begins here.

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foggy eyes
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#67 Post by foggy eyes » Thu Aug 07, 2008 9:11 am

Jeff wrote:It can only be screened 2.35 in cinemas. Even though it was shot on Super 35 (and the negative has a native ratio of about 1.66), prints are standard anamorphic 35mm. They take a 2.35 extraction from the negative, squeeze that extraction to fit on standard 35mm film and project it with anamorphic lenses, just like they would do with a film shot in anamorphic Panavision. The projectionist can't really do much with the composition.
Yes, sorry, my point was more that a decision was made to strike anamorphic 2.35 prints in the first place for festival screenings (some of which Mungiu and/or the cast attended) and for wider/national theatrical exhibition. There has to be a pretty concrete reason for this choice, and Mungiu or Mutu certainly would have been involved, regardless of whether or not they had any say later in the production of the DVD releases.
There is nothing wrong with differing opinions here. There is no "right answer." I already offered my take in a different form on an archived Beaver thread. That discussion begins here.
Thought all this sounded familiar!

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#68 Post by Mesh » Wed Aug 20, 2008 6:12 pm

Lemmy Caution wrote:3) Someone above mentioned the pocketknife as a red herring ... while noting how that adds tension to the scene. But what about the abortionist not retrieving his ID from the hotel desk? That seemed dangerous and unlikely. Unless he had used a false ID, which is possible, but such preparation wouldn't have been necessary as he had expected to go to one of the hotels he had specified which wouldn't ask for and hold a visitor's ID.
The ID is a complex red herring at worst, given that A) it might well be fake and B) the abortionist—assuming he did forget it—would be foolish to return to the hotel desk, ask for it back, and imprint his face in the memory of whomever was at the desk. He makes it clear in dialogue how aware he his of the illegality he's engaged in. C) here might be that the ID, like the pocketknife, adds tension in that we and Otilia have to think hard about whether the abortionist is likely to return.

Metropolisforever_2

Re: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Christian Mungiu, 2007)

#69 Post by Metropolisforever_2 » Fri Jan 30, 2009 8:32 pm

To be honest, this film could have taken place in any other country where abortion is/was illegal. This film comes off as a rather shallow, inferior, and one-dimensional attempt at detailing the sordid business of back-door abortions - something which has already been covered in films like Vera Drake and Dirty Pretty Things.

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Re: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Christian Mungiu, 2007)

#70 Post by Shrew » Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:20 pm

No.

So first you have the long opening segment consisting of Otilia running throughout the dorm pulling every favor she has to get some soap. Goddamn fucking soap. In college, I could never find some when I needed it either--this film could be happening in my old dorm room in Pittsburgh!

And I tell you, those god damn hotels. You try to check in, and it's always "Oh no, you left her name, not yours. Oh that will be extra. Oh, there's no room go to the other hotel. What? Two people!? You can't have two people in a room! Where's your ID?" That happens to me all the time, except when I was in China. They're just weird over there.

Snarkiness aside, both of these incidents show life under Romanian dictatorship being difficult if you're just a plain normal human being. The abortion merely raises the ante.

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Re: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Christian Mungiu, 2007)

#71 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jan 31, 2009 4:13 am

Metropolisforever_2 wrote:The viewer is so distanced from these characters that it doesn't even matter.
No, not "the viewer". You personally.

My own personal reaction was rather different, to the point of being baffled that anyone could feel "distanced" from Anamaria Marinca's virtuoso performance as Otilia, especially in the film's second half. If you got through the dinner party scene without screaming inside (exactly like her, no matter how impassive her expression), then you really have completely failed to engage with what was going on.

But then again, I recognised that the film isn't "an abortion film" so much as a portrait of someone whose sense of friendship and loyalty is so strong that it ultimately trumps everything (even the fact that Gabita is irritating, whiny and flagrantly irresponsible, which I assume was entirely intentional). Fundamentally, the film would still work if the illegal act at its centre was something else entirely - and this absolutely isn't true of Vera Drake (which really is "an abortion film").
The whole thing seems like a cold, lifeless, and ultimately pointless affair. Not the heartbreaking experience I was hoping for.
Rewatch the final scene and think through its implications. Otilia has taken the most appalling risks (many of which Gabita doesn't even know about, any one of which could have landed her with a substantial prison sentence and the terminal ruin of any career plans), only to be told never to mention it again. And the really heartbreaking thing is that Gabita's right, and Otilia knows it.

Which encapsulates life in a totalitarian society in general: there are certain subjects that you just don't discuss. Not just abortion, but even trivial things like blaming shortages of basic staples on inept government planning, even though everyone knows that's the case. The kind of casual water-cooler chats which are staples of Western social discourse simply didn't happen over there, because of the risks involved in speaking out of turn unless you're 100% sure about the motives of the person you're talking to.

Which is the fundamental distinction between Ceausescu's Romania and an otherwise largely free society that criminalises abortion - and if you try to imagine the film being relocated to, say, Haughey's Ireland, hopefully you'll start to appreciate the difference.

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Re: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Christian Mungiu, 2007)

#72 Post by jbeall » Sat Jan 31, 2009 5:05 pm

Metropolisforever_2 wrote:To be honest, this film could have taken place in any other country where abortion is/was illegal. This film comes off as a rather shallow, inferior, and one-dimensional attempt at detailing the sordid business of back-door abortions - something which has already been covered in films like Vera Drake and Dirty Pretty Things.
In many countries, even those where abortion was illegal, disposing of the fetus would have been easier with a little light. When Ottilia's running around trying to find someplace to do just that, there's no light whatsoever, and that's entirely late-80s Romania, when Ceaucescu turned off the streetlights from 7-9 every night in order to save $$$ to pay off the country's debts. There are numerous other very specific details that invalidate your statement.

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Re: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Christian Mungiu, 2007)

#73 Post by Highway 61 » Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:33 pm

You know, last night I began to write a post refuting this charlatan's adolescent opinion. I took his words personally because my girlfriend was born and raised in Ceausescu's Romania, and I've learned so much from her and her Romanian friends about a country that I previously knew nothing about. But as I was writing, I realized that I was doing more harm than good by replying to an attention-seeking troll, and I ended up deleting everything I wrote. Yet now that other members have responded, I just wanted to confirm what MichaelB and Jbeall said. The dinner party seen is indeed a brilliant portrait of class disparity in Ceausescu's Romania, and details like lack of light are absolutely authentic. The only thing I'll add is that the film is undeniably "heartbreaking," but in an ugly and senseless way rather than a sentimental way. Our protagonists are repeatedly mistreated, taken advantage of, and even raped by men, and to preserve order in their lives amidst these constant violations, their only choice is to risk committing a serious crime. I can't even imagine what kind of hell that must be like.

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Re: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Christian Mungiu, 2007)

#74 Post by david hare » Sun Feb 01, 2009 3:06 am

Yes exactly, don't ask or expect someone who's obviously very young. very inexperienced about life and just trying to strut out to step right into a possible new world of serious cinema, for him to get this.

Ive seen far worse entrees here.

What he needs to understand is this: if the profound insensitivity he's shown to people who have life experiences which embody things like the Monster Ceaucescu. I dont think he realizes yet he's been born into a world of such completely fully realized evil.

There's also the issue - of interest to me anyway - of the skill if not genius of a director who can embed this political horror story beyond Kafka into a stylitiscally personal and compelling formal work. Otherwise called profound formal grace.

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Re: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Christian Mungiu, 2007)

#75 Post by MichaelB » Sun Feb 01, 2009 4:10 am

Metropolisforever_2 wrote:Apparently, all you have to do is show a few bad things and - viola! - you have yourself a masterpiece. If you take a camera into modern-day Romania, you will still find many of the things you saw in this movie. A lot of the things still look the same. However, there was (and is) much good about Romania - which, of course, you won't see here.
No, of course you won't, because it's set in the late 1980s. And here's another point you've missed: one of the reasons we're finally seeing films about life in Ceausescu's Romania is because it's only now that a generation of filmmakers - most of them only in their teens or younger during this period - have felt confident enough to explore it: their older colleagues felt reluctant to disinter painful memories. German filmmakers had a similar problem with the Nazi era, which is why it wasn't really explored in detail in German cinema until the 1970s and an equivalent younger generation.

And just imagine your last sentence transplanted to, say, Schindler's List - "However, there was (and is) much good about Germany - which, of course, you won't see here".
Bring the French a movie showing a few bad things about Romania, and they'll feel much better about themselves. This movie has a lot of historical inaccuracies, also.
Such as? And does it matter? My midwife-sonographer wife identified plenty of technical inaccuracies, starting with the fact that the flat-stomached Gabita was clearly nowhere near four months pregnant. But it's neither a historical documentary about Ceausescu's Romania nor a medical documentary about abortion - and you can make similar quibbles about many, many other films whose critical reputation is rock-solid, without in any way diluting their intrinsic power.
Another thing: near the beginning, we see a girl selling illegal merchandise, including cigarettes and birth-control pills. Wouldn't it have made much more sense if our heroines just bought some of those? I mean, really.
Do you really think someone as scatty and irresponsible as Gabita would have thought this through? Even if such things were affordable on a student income? And if you buy them on the black market, what guarantee does the purchaser have that they'll work? In fact, why do you think that Cristian Mungiu included that detail, when he clearly didn't have to?

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