It’s such a joy to return to Romania.
Not that I’ve ever been there.
Except in films.
But so you understand, no national cinema has moved me quite so much as the Romanian.
[With exception to the French.]
Iran is close.
But oh so far.
Because we don’t see Iranian movies.
Not real ones.
And on Netflix, we don’t see the history of history.
Just a recent interpretation.
And that is so often fool’s gold.
Netflix, like its dire counterpart Hulu, is heavy on Holocaust films.
This would be appropriate.
If the films were any good.
Because the Holocaust is the most important event of the past hundred years.
But the films aren’t any good.
By and large.
However, fear not: this film does not try to take on what cannot be documented.
[see Histoire(s) du cinéma for the only good Holocaust film ever made]
No, we are after buried treasure.
Indeed, this film is listed as The Treasure on Netflix.
And I commend that streaming service for its ostensible dedication to quality foreign films.
[even if the same company has no concept of history]
If you look at the “classics” section of Netflix, you will find a paucity of titles.
This is problematic.
Last I checked Hulu (before I quit it), their “classics” section was just as bad (if not worse).
But Hulu had, for awhile, a distinct competitive advantage over Netflix (while it lasted).
The Criterion Collection.
Sure, it was not the collection in its entirety, but it was a treasure (pardon the extended metaphor) of classic films…many from countries other than the U.S. and U.K..
As I have reported previously, Hulu began to surreptitiously phase out its lost licensing (apparently) of the Criterion catalog.
Once I realized what had really happened, the damage was done.
I was out of there.
Nothing, I imagined, could be worse than the current laughable joint venture (and anemic selection) of Hulu.
And I was right.
Netflix has been a breath of fresh air.
I had previously seen Netflix’ hopper.
It seemed very light on classic films.
And it still is.
But what Netflix lacks in historical perspective, it makes up for (marginally) with its plentiful “international” category.
And thus we come to this fine Romanian film: Comorara.
It may be incredibly naive for me to postulate thusly, but Romanian cinema is the future.
No national cinema rivals the French.
Yes, Germany has had its share of important films (especially in the silent era and soon thereafter).
But the French-language library of films which has been passed down through the “ages” is nonpareil.
Of that tradition, nothing comes even close (for me) to equaling Jean-Luc Godard’s output.
[though he was, and always will be, gloriously Swiss]
Thus, he stands head-and-shoulders above the rest.
But there are others.
Especially those with whom Godard would have been nothing.
Jacques Becker. Robert Bresson! Marcel Carné. Henri-Georges Clouzot. Jean Cocteau. Jean-Pierre Melville. Jean Renoir! Jean Rouch. Jacques Tati.
And then there are those foreigners who worked in French (to varying extents) such as Luis Buñuel and Max Ophüls.
But the French cinema has given us other visionaries contemporaneous to Godard.
Alain Resnais. Eric Rohmer. François Truffaut. These are just a few that come to mind.
And until Netflix (and even the Criterion Collection itself) gets beyond to utter genius of Abbas Kiarostami, we will know little of the Iranian cinema beyond its undisputed master.
[Indeed, Netflix has not even broached the true cinema of Iran by featuring Kiarostami…as far as I know. It is solely the Criterion Collection which is to thank for exposing people to films like Taste of Cherry and Close-Up.]
But I must give Netflix their due.
They have made available the very fine Romanian film under review.
Yet, before we delve into that…I would like to delineate exactly what makes Romania different as far as being “the future” of cinema (in relation to, say, Iran…for instance).
The simple answer is that there are multiple genius (genius!) directors working in Romania.
They may not (certainly not) get the budgets they deserve, but their output is of the highest, most sublime quality.
And, sadly, Abbas Kiarostami is no longer among the living.
But it bears mentioning the auteurs of Romanian “new wave” cinema.
Cristi Puiu. Cătălin Mitulescu. Cristian Mungiu.
And the director of Comoara: Corneliu Porumboiu.
The Treasure must not have been an easy film to make.
Indeed, the very end of the film evinces a directorial sigh of relief (if I am interpreting it correctly).
Let me just say this: nothing much happens in this film.
Indeed, this might be the type of film which illustrates the different way in which film critics view films (as opposed to most moviegoers).
Not to mince words, my guess is that most people (98%?) would find The Treasure boring.
But I loved it!
The defining characteristic of this film is tension.
But it is not the type of tension which strings us along in a film such as Rear Window.
The tension here is far more mundane in comparison.
And yet, there is real inspiration at work in Porumboiu’s mise-en-scène here.
Toma Cuzin is our brooding “star”.
And he is very, very good.
But his “foil” is the Dudley-Moore-lookalike Adrian Purcărescu.
Cuzin is calm. And yet, the dreamer…
One might even think “gullible”.
Purcărescu is frazzled. Cynical. Either a conman of a saint. Hard to tell…
But the fellow who pulls it all together is Corneliu Cozmei.
He’s the man with the metal detectors.
[this is a treasure hunt, after all!]
Cozmei is caught between the personalities of Cuzin and Purcărescu.
And yet he’s not just an innocent bystander (so to speak).
He may be the independent party in this whole treasure hunt, but he’s smack dab in the middle of a very tense situation.
Bogart fans will not be far off if they faintly recall the Sturm und Drang of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
But most of all…it’s just good to be back in Romania.
To see a half-lit, grey day.
To see the funny looking cars.
To notice all the details of a culture I truly love.