California Dreamin' (Endless) ****
Directed by Cristian Nemescu
Romania has done it once again. That country just cannot do no wrong. I believe the woman who introduced the screening of the masterpiece "California Dreamin' (Endless)" (and I'm going to drop the Endless for the rest of this review) said it best when she said that this is another installment in the Romanian New Wave cinema wave that is going on-and in my opinion much better than the American indie mumblecore wave-look at my review for "Hannah Takes the Stairs" for more information on that. After the other two masterpieces that come from the country-"The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" and "12:08 East of Bucharest,"-I already have strong faith in the country. And with them winning the top prize at Cannes with "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days"-off sale at the festival, but I certainly hope to score tickets at the New York Film Festival at the end of the month-they really are a powerhouse land.
'California Dreamin'" is being released at the festival under tragic circumstances. This is the first film by director Cristian Nemescu, and sadly this is the only item that will ever be listed on his filmography. Nemescu was killed in a car accident a year ago, and the film is being released as it was at that time-finished, but maybe he would have done a little bit more editing, possibly. The film does run a massive 155 minutes. It tells about a real life event, in 1999 when a train filled with Americans transporting military weapons ends up being held up in a Romanian train station because the captain of the station-a man name Doiaru- wants the right paperwork required for them to pass through. The captain-a man named Jones played by Armand Assante-wants out, but the other soldiers end up falling for the charm of the village-and by charm I mean the women. Sgt McLaren ends up falling under the spell of Monica, a loose young woman that is probably angry about the death of her mother. Her father also happens to be Doiaru. And while the captain is angry about the train being stationed there, the mayor of the town (played by 12:08's Ion Sapdaru, who I was surprised only had a handful of credits to his name) sees an opportunity. As a child his life was shattered by Romanian/American relations, and he wants to use the stationed men as a way to expand relations with the country. Even if that means keeping them there as long as possible, and throwing a 100 year party for the village-something that was celebrated the week before. All this eventually leads to a darker turn, one which I will not even describe why or how, or even when.
Once again Romania has given us a dark comedy-made with a very low budget, no music (in fact the only music in the film is during the end credits, and you could probably guess what song it is), and a slightly moving camera, not noticeable strongly, but enough to make us feel like an observer. This is an odd epic because the story is not something you would expect to last such a long amount of time, but even though the film feels quite long its so engrossing and fascinating that you don't care. These characters are all so well done, and I think that Ion Sapdaru is one of the best actors around-I look forward to see his work in "4 Months.. . " But there are so many fascinating scenes in the film, many of them hilarious. At the core of the movie is a political satire-taking on topics like Clinton, Lewinsky, wars to cover up scandals, etc. And it all works. Nothing seems out of place. These characters all seem real. Everything is just so full of life, that its shame that Nemescu was taken so early. He could have told so many terrific stories, but at least his first and only film was a masterwork. I look forward to the next Romanian film, because at this rate they cannot do any wrong at all. This shouldn't have a problem getting picked up, and if it doesn't, they should call Tartan. They would do right by it.