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CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

Director: CRISTIAN NEMESCU

ROMANIA • 2007 SUBTITLED • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 155 MIN


FURTHER EVIDENCE OF THE CURRENT RENAISSANCE OF ROMANIAN CINEMA IS PROVIDED IN THIS STRIKING FIRST FEATURE FROM DIRECTOR CRISTIAN NEMESCU, WHO TRAGICALLY DIED BEFORE THE COMPLETION OF POSTPRODUCTION AND HIS FILM’S TRIUMPH AT CANNES LAST YEAR.
It’s based on a true incident which occurred in the summer of 1999, towards the end of the Kosovo War, when American NATO troops were delayed at an insignificant rural train station due to the lack of correct paperwork. In the film, this seemingly banal mistake results in a standoff between the American captain (Armand Assante in a career-best performance) and the local stationmaster Doiaru (Razvan Vasilescu), who has personal reasons for wishing to delay the train. Matters are further complicated when the local villagers attempt to exploit the presence of the Americans for their own ends: the factory workers who protest for better conditions; the mayor who sees an opportunity to attract tourists; and the local girls who desperately seek escape, particularly Doiaru’s own daughter Monica (the radiant Maria Dinulescu), whose relationship with one soldier literally sparks. Most significantly, the soldiers are also asked to help in the toppling of Doiaru, who in effect rules the locale with an iron fist. Although California Dreamin’ is perhaps overlong, and its broadly comic indictment of both Romanian bureaucracy and American foreign policy not as subtle as it might have been, this is merely a reflection of film’s unfinished state (indeed, ‘unfinished’ is a better translation of ‘nesfarsit’). It remains a fine addition to the recent Romanian canon, and a sad reminder of the loss of Nemescu’s clearly huge potential as a filmmaker.—Kevin Coyne.

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