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NYFF 2010. Radu Muntean's "Tuesday, After Christmas"

"At first glance, Tuesday, After Christmas seems, in both form and content, only a modestly ambitious endeavor," begins Nick Schager in Slant. "Yet the singular attention with which it carries out its aims — and the rigorous success it ultimately attains — is nonetheless unsparing, and bracing. Romanian writer-director Radu Muntean's drama-of-adultery is crafted with exacting, abstract formalism, its long takes and barely mobile compositions drawing attention to not only the complex human emotions on display, but the oppressive environmental spaces which simultaneously bear down on its characters and leave them stranded, and unprotected, from the violence of their choices."

"None of Romanian filmmaker Radu Muntean's films have yet seen commercial release in the US," notes Benjamin Mercer in Reverse Shot, "but he's one of his country's most accomplished realists. His second feature, The Paper Will Be Blue, was a here-and-now recent-history drama in the Paul Greengrass mold, though less oppressively hectic, a topsy-turvy handheld portrait of collective confusion during the December 22, 1989, fall of president Nicolae Ceausescu. Life under Ceausescu — himself the subject of a caustic state-pageantry archival-footage 'autobiography' playing outside the 2010 New York Film Festival's main slate — has been a dominant topic of films from the so-called Romanian New Wave, whether tackled head-on (4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days) or as memory (12:08 East of Bucharest). Many recent films from Romania display a mordant sense of humor, but they are almost uniformly bleak, even the ones set in the present day (Stuff and Dough; Police, Adjective; and The Death of Mr Lazarescu), showing a country still in institutional and infrastructural disrepair, and therefore implicitly pointing an incriminating finger backward at the dictator. Muntean's fourth feature, Tuesday, After Christmas, which he cowrote with Alexandra Baciu and Razvan Radulescu, is a domestic drama in its own way as harrowing as any of the above films, but it's set against a backdrop of consumerist accumulation rather than systemic decay."

""By the expectations of Romanian films seen here (fair or not), we're in a whole new world here socially," agrees Vadim Rizov at GreenCine Daily: "conversations are conducted by iPhone, holiday shopping takes place in warmly lit department stores, and cosmetic dental care is available. We know this because Paul (Mimi Branescu) is having an affair with dentist Raluca (Maria Popistasu), who thrives on talk of modifying arches and speaks of overbites (and the weird cheekbones they might bring) in the same grave fashion a normal person would use to speak of a root canal. Paul and his wife Adriana (Mirela Oprisor) are upwardly mobile themselves, unafraid to drop vast sums for pink corrective braces. What Adriana doesn't know is that Raluca's having an affair with Paul, which goes more or less where you'd expect. Early reviews of Tuesday, After Christmas have largely erred on the side of respectful but distant; this is an old story, molars aside. But what makes it extraordinary is the way Muntean turns the mundane and material cosmic, akin to Silent Light."

"This is a highlight of the fest's off-the-beaten-path offerings, shot in mesmerizing, unsettlingly quiet long takes and brilliantly performed," writes Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York. "You won't see better performances in any film this festival," agrees J Hoberman in the Voice.

"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," wrote Daniel Kasman in May. "I suppose that's a compliment, but it also reinforces the ultimately interchangeable/programmatic nature of this fine film."

 


For Simon Abrams, writing for the New York Press, Tuesday "plays out like a kitchen sink drama by way of Kobo Abe." Aaron Cutler has responded to the film on a very personal level at the House Next Door. "[W]hile the film never quite recaptures the wild electricity of its first scene and spends much of its frustrating final portion lingering on inconsequential sub-characters, Tuesday, After Tomorrow is often rapturously real," writes David Ehrlich at Cinematical. "This is a story you know by heart, but Muntean's film might have you feeling it for the first time."

Sean Glass at Ioncinema: "Muntean describes the shooting as very difficult, requiring much preparation including a three week rehearsal period with the entire crew, however the edit took only about twenty hours and six days after production they had a cut that included English subtitles, a color correct and sound mix."

Earlier: The roundup from Cannes.

Lorber Films has picked up US rights, reports Nigel M Smith at indieWIRE.

Updates, 10/2: The L's Mark Asch on the press conference: "[Q]uestioners seemed, to me at least, to be projecting their own emotional (and political) biases onto the characters, which is is a testament the credible, engaging and specific detail Muntean and his cast draw out of a very familiar scenario."

Michael J Anderson: "[I]t is less time that remains Tuesday, After Christmas's principle formal interest, than it is space, and in particular off-camera space, as the director's narrative of marital infidelity unfolds with one or two members of the triangle excluded in most of the film's minimally cut scenes."

Update, 10/5: Viewing (24'13"). Sean Glass talks with Muntean, Branescu and Oprisor for Ioncinema.

Update, 10/11: "[H]ere we apparently have an actual gender-based Rorschach test," proposes the Siren, who "can muster all sorts of sympathy for all sorts of adulterers, and she has the posts to prove it. But Paul is a toad. And the Siren is completely, fully, firmly convinced that the movie shows he is a toad. However, a lot of critics don't see it that way, and, well, they're all men. So, permit the Siren to make her case...."

Update, 10/14: "The very cliché of this story and the unlikeability of all of the main characters seem to me to be a critique of how Romania is squandering its potential following liberation," suggests Marilyn Ferdinand. "In Catalin Mitulescu's The Way I Spent the End of the World, the bravery of the Romanian people on the cusp of freedom is highlighted, with optimism for a better future clearly signaled in its final flash-forward. However, Muntean seems more in tune with Romania's hidden antagonisms and betrayals, amusingly signaled when Cristi finds a DVD of Corneliu Porumboiu's 12:08 East of Bucharest in Racula's apartment, a film in which disreputable characters seek to define courage exactly and one that shows great skepticism about those who are making money and getting ahead."

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