Awarded the Un Certain Regard prize more for its intentions than the actual outcome, this unfinished picture by talented young Romanian director Nemescu, as shown in Cannes, is the rough cut of a film that might have looked entirely different once completed.
But Nemescu, barely 27, was tragically killed in a car accident with his sound engineer, Andrei Toncu, and the material he left behind clearly indicates that his ideas about shaping it all up had not yet fully crystallized.
Overlong, bloated and unfocused, somewhere in-between a raucous Balkan comedy and a thoughtful reflection on Romania's present state.
it could have gone any number of ways in Nemescu's hands, but without his input, this is the kind of material better fit for an archive in memory of a promising talent than exhibited in public, as it was in Cannes, where it generated expectations it cannot possibly meet.
Based on an incident which actually took place in 1999, it is all about a train carrying a secret new American radar system on its way to Kosovo, blocked in a small Romanian town by a station master who refused to let it go before all custom formalities are completed.
While the members of the small American army unit accompanying the military equipment fraternize with the locals, most particularly the girls, strings are being busily pulled all over the place but only five days later do the necessary papers finally materialize.
By this time, there is a dramatic storm in the air, brewed by American intervention, with a tragic ending squeezed in at the end, a hint that everywhere Americans stick there noses is, trouble follows, and when they go away, the natives are left to cut each other's throats.
A relatively large production, with numerous speaking parts, it elaborates on all the years Romanians have been waiting for the Americans to come, all the hopes they have built around this arrival, but also all the corruption and sloth that have taken the country over in the course of the 55 years which separated the bombing of Bucharest, in the pre-credits sequence, and the incident itself.
Complications abound, with the station master (Vasilescu) nursing an old grudge, running a black market operation, trying to keep his recalcitrant daughter Monica (Dinulescu) out of trouble and repossess a factory that once belonged to his family, the American commanding officer, Cpt. Jones (Assante) torn between diplomacy and impatience with the locals, the manipulative village mayor (Sapdaru) trying to milk the incident of all its potential advantages, and Jamie Elman's Sgt.McLaren providing the romantic touch.
That a promising career has been brutally cut off can be easily gleaned in some of the ensemble scenes, like the party thrown by the village for its guests, and in some of the intimate ones as well, like Dinulescu learning the lyrics of the title song from her shy suitor (Margineanu), or the encounters between Assante and his nemesis, Vasilescu, one of the finest screen actors in Romania, whose performance is the most finely nuanced here.
But all this is still insufficient to sustain the interest for over two and a half hours.
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