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PostPosted: Wed Sep 11, 2013 3:54 pm 
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I've finally cracked open the Pintilie set and am delighted that the first film out of the box, Sunday at Six, is a high modernist masterpiece. It's as good as anything that was coming out of Czechoslovakia in the 60s (and I don't say that lightly), and the followers of various new waves will find a lot of reassuringly familiar elements: fragmentary, recurring flashforwards; an eerie electronic score; formalized static shots of architecture; frantic first-person tracking shots; disaffected youth; sinister, murky oppositional politics; characters inserted into semi-documentary situations; gorgeous black and white photography. It almost sounds generic, a period Not Another New Wave Modernist Masterpiece!, except that Pintilie executes everything superbly and consolidates it all within a fleet hour and a quarter. Plus, in 1965 he was actually ahead of the curve in terms of a lot of what he was doing, particularly the political content. There are scenes here that would signal "post-'68" for western directors.

If the rest of the films in the box that I haven't seen are half as good as this, it's the release of the year, up there with the Portabella set.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2013 4:25 pm 
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Reenactment finds Pintilie more in the realm of Menzel / Forman / Passer absurdist humanism after the arty austerity of Sunday at 6, and it's another triumph.

The film begins self-reflexively, with multiple takes of one of the characters falling down in the mud, then goes self-reflexive in another direction as he rises up and looks at the filmcrew and the film slips in the gate and the light of the sky smears the image. It's a clever, gimmicky sequence that doesn't at all anticipate the style of the film but seems to fit in pretty straightforwardly with its premise (and takes on a strange resonance at the end of the film).

The basic situation of the film is contrived and artificial, even though all of the action proceeds quite plausibly and naturally, and the film playfully avoids the basic scenario for as long as it can. A couple of friends got drunk at a soccer match and got into a fight with one another, which led to the destruction of public property, the injury of the barman, and the near death of one of the boys when his friend pushed him into the river. The two boys have been brought back to the scene of their crime by the local prosecutor and his hangers-on in order to reenact their crimes for a PSA. However, the boys aren't exactly model actors. One of them, who may be a little simple, treats everything like a joke; the other is extremely reluctant to fight his friend (when he's not drunk). But that's okay, since nobody seems all that keen on actually reenacting the scenes in question.

All of the action unfolds around the drinks kiosk outside the football stadium. Apart from a Pied-Piper-esque door in a wall in a hillside, the stadium is unseen, though the action (or lack of it) is regularly punctuated by the roar of an invisible crowd. One scene is shot - one of the hooligans pushes the cheerful barman's head through a plate glass window again - then everybody kind of drifts off to the bar, the river, a local girl with a transistor radio until. . . An old woman loses some of her geese. Then the youths are drafted to capture the geese, and everybody drifts off into the forest. At this point one of the boys goes missing. We also learn that both boys are in fact free to go. They haven't been convicted of anything, but the prosecutor is holding the threat of punishment over their heads in order to coerce them to take part in the cautionary film he wants to make.

Eventually, when the film is almost over and the football crowds are about to come flooding out of the stadium to transform the bucolic landscape, the ramshackle crew get back down to the matter of making their PSA. They finally get the shots they need, pack up their equipment and toddle back into town. But while we've been distracted by the ambling, shaggy dog nature of the story, the film delivers a lethal sucker punch. It's the sort of thing you barely even notice when it happens, but it leads to a stunning conclusion, and it changes everything we've seen, right back to that opening sequence.


Last edited by zedz on Wed Sep 18, 2013 6:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 5:21 pm 
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Third Pintilie is Ward 6, a Yugoslavian production from 1973. It's Pintilie's first film in colour and it's a little less formally striking than the previous two features - in part because he's starting to use a zoom lens (only occasionally), and it's very hard to use them well - but nevertheless excellent.

His concerns are starting to come into focus, as this is another film of entrapment in which the very existence of a trap only becomes clear after the trap has been sprung, and in which the gentle (or not-so-gentle) coercion of societal authority is gradually exposed. This is the story of a bearish, pensive doctor assigned to a ramshackle asylum who philosophizes (maybe a little too much) about what he's doing. His fate is sealed when he comes across an inmate who's just as philosophical as he is.

The elements for this film aren't quite as strong as for the earlier features, possibly because it's a foreign production. The print is slightly battered but still very good, and the transfer of it is great.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 5:07 pm 
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Pintilie's next film, Carnival Scenes rubbed me completely the wrong way. It's a relentless Felliniesque roundelay of sexual jealousy and revenge in a grubby village. It's one of those films in which every character plays at fever pitch all of the time: it's a wall of yelling, cackling and gurning, and I find that sort of thing almost always utterly tedious. Like I said, Fellini-a-go-go.

It's not that it's badly done, if you like that sort of thing. In fact, it's probably excellently done, and you might even buy the swerves into pathos that the film eventually attempts (not me: I find it hard to empathize with characters you've been wishing would just die already for a couple of hours). There's a sequence late in the film in which one of the characters climbs up into an attic, so for a little while the action unfolds from that vantage point: seen from on high, in extreme long shot, at twilight. This is a fabulously cinematic idea, with the added advantage of placing the outsized performances and farcical plot machinations in an appropriately Breughel-sized frame. A fine sequence, but the rest of the film was a complete tempramental mismatch with me.

It was, however, the first film in the box that reminded me of Pintilie's best-known film, The Oak, though the hysteria of that film was much more reasonably motivated, and it's leavened with bitter darkness. Anyway, that one was next up in his filmography (after a decade in the wilderness), but I didn't watch it as I'd already seen it. Ditto An Unforgettable Summer.

Which leads me to Too Late, a lower-key, quietly impressive thriller in which a novice prosecutor is sent to investigate a string of mysterious deaths in a dying mine. Much of the film is pretty generic, I suppose. For instance, the prosecutor begins a torrid relationship with apparently the only woman in the town. Has any film ever had its outsider lawman not immediately hook up with the Most Available Local Gal? But Pintilie brings a lot of individual style to the table. There's a murky political conspiracy that may or may not be connected with whatever's happening in the mine, lurking helicopters, a really startling climax, a random string quartet wandering around (a wackily surreal running gag that's used with surprising effectiveness to tie the whole thing together), and the opening of the film is a masterclass in getting an audience's attention.

We start behind some guy's shaven head, as he rides an escalator down into a German train station, then observe him removing dynamite from his bag. Then a title reads, "Several months earlier, in Romania. . ." and we're deep in a mine. A crew mess around as they have their lunch break. Somebody tells a joke and they all laugh. Then they stop, but the laughter carries on, somewhere in the darkness. Suddenly, we're watching a string quartet sawing away furiously, intercut with headlong POV footage of a train plunging into dark tunnels as the opening credits roll. It's all rhythmic, kinetic and immediate. The film soon settles into the more expected measures of the procedural, but it regularly kicks things back up with each fresh murder or absurdist detour.


Last edited by zedz on Wed Sep 18, 2013 6:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2013 6:09 pm 
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I vaguely remembered that I'd only seen half of Terminus Paradise (for the life of me I can't remember why), and was surprised to find that it was the second half (which seems even more baffling). My impressions now are similar to my impressions then: it's a good, solid film typical of its period, but one with niggling flaws.

This is another case of a genre / trope that totally rubs me up the wrong way: the indulged arsehole protagonist. He (and it's almost always a he) is a well-established feature of indie and international cinema over the last couple of decades: the completely irresponsible / reckless / "me so crazy!" young male that the film seems to idolize beyond all bounds of reason. This film indulges in that kind of nonsense to an extent (dangling your beloved out the window of a highrise is totally adorable, right? And it's okay to pump your fist when Our Hero demolishes somebody's livelihood, because that guy is, like, really uncool, and old, and a bit crass, and he's engaged to the pretty young thing Our Hero is obsessed with) but Pintilie is shrewd enough to keep pushing the envelope. Each fresh outrage only encourages Mitu to go even further the next time, and eventually he leaves the film's sympathies behind. But in the end it's all sort of muddled, as Pintilie continues to sentimentalize the relationship with his love interest, who's the nearest thing we have to an audience surrogate once Mitu goes beyond the pale, and contrives a tragic ending that's at the same time richly deserved and totally unearned.

The film seems to be attempting a somewhat daring experiment with audience identification, pushing the focal character well beyond our capacity to empathize with him, but I feel like it fumbles both ends of that trajectory.


Last edited by zedz on Wed Sep 18, 2013 6:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2013 3:35 pm 
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Afternoon of a Torturer is really good, and finds Pintilie back in the dark absurdist realm to which he seems most suited in his later work. An oral historian records - despite all sorts of interruptions - the 'confession' of a former government torturer / killer. It's a straightforward enough idea, and the pleasure comes from the way in which Pintilie elaborates it with formal and surreal diversions while also transforming it into something that's emblematic of recent Romanian history and critical of the ways in which it's suppressed. There's a paring back here that seems to look forward to his final (to date) masterpiece Tertium non datur


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2013 3:54 pm 
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Last of the previously unseen films: Niki and Flo. All of the transfers in this set that I've seen have been excellent (and most of the sources fine as well), but this one is especially good - about as good as SD gets.

The film is terrific too. The title characters are the two fathers of a young couple making their move to America. They mildly irritate one another until the kids leave, and then the irritation escalates. Pintilie is basically working with his 'stock company' in this film, and the performances are really well gauged: lightly stylized for comic effect without going over the top. The mise en scene is precise without being fussy.

I've suspected for a while that Pintilie was a key influence for the filmmakers of the New Romanian Cinema, though none of the films I knew bore all that much of a resemblance to their work. This film and Afternoon of a Torturer, however, come very close to what was to come, exploring the troubled relationship of contemporary Romanians to their country's messy history through a (sometimes ironically distanced) stylized realism. One particular squabble between Niki and Flo in this film reminds me of the grumpily contested histories in 12:08 East of Bucharest.

There's actually a direct link in the case of this film, as it was co-written by Cristi Puiu (The Death of Mr Lazarescu, Aurora). He'd worked on a previous Pintilie film (either Torturer or Terminus, I can't remember and imdb doesn't record the details) as well.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2013 4:09 pm 
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Thanks for the rundown! I'm looking forward to diving into this set (gradually, throughout the decades lists, like a sane person). :wink:


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2013 6:02 pm 
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Don't try and kid us that you're sane at this late stage.

I'll tackle the extras disc next.

As it stands, this ties for me as the release of the year with the Portabella set. I think only the Criterion WCF box has a shot at toppling them.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 19, 2013 4:11 pm 
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The extras disc runs nearly three and a half hours and seems to be entirely comprised of existing material (i.e. nothing newly created for this set). This sort of thing:
- Romanian TV shows in which other people reflect on how fabulous Pintilie is on the occasion of a new film release / book publication / birthday. These are the most disposable things on the disc.
- Public speeches / talks by Pintilie. There's a lengthy press conference on the release of Too Late which is reasonably meaty, and Pintilie showing off his erudition at an Ionesco symposium.
- Presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Romanian Oscars. This is actually surprisingly revealing, as it confirms that he was a mentor not only to Cristi Puiu but to Corneliu Porumboiu (Police, Adjective and - good lord! - I actually spelt that correctly all on my own). This extract also includes a snippet of Puiu correcting those who argue whether or not his first feature marked the start of the Romanian New Wave by categorically stating that the New Wave began with Reenactment (in 1968).
- Director introductions originally shot for the French DVDs of three films. All good, but some are more useful than others, and the one for Niki and Flo is arguably essential for non-Romanian viewers, as in it Pintilie goes through every dated chapter of the film explaining the historical significance of that particular date and demonstrating how the film's action plays against that historical reference. In some cases, the on-screen action is an elaborate parody of / commentary on key events in Romanian history.

Over all, these extras gave me a much better understanding of the contours of Pintilie's career, even though there isn't really any single one that presents a comprehensive overview. Some key points I gleaned:
- Pintilie is as celebrated a theatre director as a filmmaker, and during his long hiatuses from film directing that was what he was doing, primarily in exile;
- One of his most famous / notorious achievements was a 1972 production of The Inspector General, which ran afoul of the government censors and was shut down after three performances. They demanded certain changes which the theatre and actors were willing to accommodate. Pintilie threatened to set himself on fire if they allowed the production to continue in censored form. This led directly to his exile.
- Pintilie returned to Romania at the end of the decade to make Carnival Scenes, but that was immediately banned and only released after the fall of Ceausescu in 1990. As such, it became a pivotal film for young Romanian filmmakers (but I still don't like it much!)


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 04, 2014 7:01 am 
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The Cinema Ritrovato Awards for 2014 have just been announced, including:

Quote:
BEST SPECIAL FEATURES ON DVD: PINTILIE, CINEAST
(Lucian Pintille, Romania) – Transilvania Films

An impeccable collection devoted to eleven films by an important and neglected maverick Romanian filmmaker, with invaluable contextualizing extras concerning his life, work, and career drawn from ten separate sources. Among the remarkable and ambitious features are Reconstruction (1968), The Oak (1992), and An Unforgettable Summer (1994).


(Full press release and other winners here)


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2015 5:58 pm 
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Romanian classics get the Blu-ray treatment, Dinu Cocea's historical/adventure films Haiducii (1966) and Răpirea fecioarelor / The Kidnapping of the Maidens (1968). English subtitles for both according to the site.

Never heard of these before but I'm most interested.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 2:46 pm 
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The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu has been "digitally remastered" with a new DCP showing this Sunday at Lincoln Center. Could this mean a Blu-Ray release is in the works?


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2015 1:35 pm 
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hearthesilence wrote:


A Blu-Ray version of the extremely rare Romanian Special Edition would be fantastic.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2016 1:13 pm 
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Lucian Pintilie Collection available again.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 8:00 am 
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Indeed - and my copy has just arrived, so many thanks for flagging that up.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 1:32 pm 
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Pădurea spânzuraților / Forest of the Hanged (Liviu Ciulei, 1965) available on DVD. The cover says remasterizat and the site promises subtitrări: engleza. I'm going to take the gamble and order this, have wanted to see this for way too long.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 3:59 pm 
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L.A. wrote:
Pădurea spânzuraților / Forest of the Hanged (Liviu Ciulei, 1965) available on DVD. The cover says remasterizat and the site promises subtitrări: engleza. I'm going to take the gamble and order this, have wanted to see this for way too long.

Aferim! (2015) also sounds fascinating so took that as well with Pădurea. Getting excited now.


Last edited by L.A. on Thu Jan 26, 2017 4:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 4:05 pm 
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It's a great film available in the US through Cinema Guild with great extras.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2017 12:09 pm 
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L.A. wrote:
Pădurea spânzuraților / Forest of the Hanged (Liviu Ciulei, 1965) available on DVD. The cover says remasterizat and the site promises subtitrări: engleza. I'm going to take the gamble and order this, have wanted to see this for way too long.

Got this today and English subs. Is it remasterizat? Did a quick check and must say that looks awful. No extras.

L.A. wrote:
Aferim! (2015) also sounds fascinating so took that as well with Pădurea. Getting excited now.

This is a great looking disc. English and French subtitles for the feature film. Extras department: a nice booklet (in Romanian only), two short films O umbră de nor and Trece și prin perete with optional English subtitles, Romanian and international trailers and a photo gallery. Curious what extras are on the Cinema Guild release.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2017 12:20 pm 
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A trailer and a 24-minute short by the same director.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 12:38 pm 
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Can anyone confirm if the French Wild Bunch DVD of Puiu's Sieranevada has English subtitles? I'm seeing conflicting information on various retailer websites.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 5:32 pm 
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Matt wrote:
Can anyone confirm if the French Wild Bunch DVD of Puiu's Sieranevada has English subtitles? I'm seeing conflicting information on various retailer websites.

I've had a look around and can't offer any conclusive answer, frustratingly, but it looks like the film has also been released on DVD in Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal, with none of those releases (as far as I can uncover) indicating any subtitles other than their local language, so I strongly suspect that these have been licensed as language-restricted as a matter of course. The Italian Amazon listing records the audio as Italian, so maybe that's a dub, but the French Amazon listing records its DVD as having English audio, which I'm sure is incorrect, and is the only mention I found of English in relation to that disc.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 6:20 pm 
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zedz wrote:
Third Pintilie is Ward 6, a Yugoslavian production from 1973. It's Pintilie's first film in colour and it's a little less formally striking than the previous two features - in part because he's starting to use a zoom lens (only occasionally), and it's very hard to use them well - but nevertheless excellent.

His concerns are starting to come into focus, as this is another film of entrapment in which the very existence of a trap only becomes clear after the trap has been sprung, and in which the gentle (or not-so-gentle) coercion of societal authority is gradually exposed. This is the story of a bearish, pensive doctor assigned to a ramshackle asylum who philosophizes (maybe a little too much) about what he's doing. His fate is sealed when he comes across an inmate who's just as philosophical as he is.

The elements for this film aren't quite as strong as for the earlier features, possibly because it's a foreign production. The print is slightly battered but still very good, and the transfer of it is great.

Ward No 6 is one of Chekhov's great short stories, less well known perhaps because of its length. It was adapted again in 2009, with a contemporary setting, and presented initially in a documentary (i.e. interview) format. Interesting premise, but the pseudo-documentary style could not be sustained, and ultimately it wasn't a successful experiment. I've often thought about starting a thread for Chekhov on film...

The TIFF site appears to be operational and the box set in stock. I haven't tried purchasing anything yet, but tested putting the item in a shopping cart without hitch.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2017 6:55 am 
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Matt wrote:
Can anyone confirm if the French Wild Bunch DVD of Puiu's Sieranevada has English subtitles? I'm seeing conflicting information on various retailer websites.


I don't know about that one, but I can confirm that the Romanian limited edition Blu-Ray has English subtitles. Unfortunately it's also ridiculously expensive.


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