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.