Combustible Celluloid
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With: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov, Alexandru Potocean, Ion Sapdaru, Teodor Corban, Tania Popa, Cerasela Iosifescu, Doru Ana, Eugenia Bosânceanu, Marioara Sterian, Luminita Gheorghiu
Written by: Cristian Mungiu
Directed by: Cristian Mungiu
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Romanian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 113
Date: 05/17/2007

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Doctor Despair

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Romanian New Wave continues with the third extraordinary film from that country in just over a year, following The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and 12:08 East of Bucharest. This film also has the particular distinction of winning the 2007 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Like the others, this one is vaguely political in nature, but ignores political speeches while focusing on the moment at hand. Unlike the others, however, this one isn't particularly funny; in fact, it's deadly serious. In 1987, two college roommates, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) and Gabita (Laura Vasiliu), run around and prepare for some kind of mysterious trip. Otilia speaks with her boyfriend (Alex Potocean) and tries to get out of a dinner party at his parents' house. When Gabita and Otilia finally arrive at their destination, we realize that Gabita is pregnant and that they've come for an illegal abortion. The "doctor" who shows up, Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), has to be one of the most sinister presences in the history of movies. It would be a shame to describe exactly what happens, but it's terrifying, suspenseful and emotionally overwhelming all at the same time. Like his predecessors, writer/director Cristian Mungiu guides his story with infinite patience, favoring long, still shots that capture all those mundane details that eventually turn out to be not so mundane. He knows when to cut someone out of a frame and when to include them, and when he does decide to include something, you can't take your eyes from it. The title refers to how far Gabita is in her pregnancy. Cinematographer Oleg Mutu also shot The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, which could explain some of the stylistic similarity. The film was screened for awards consideration at the end of 2007 and will open to the public in early 2008. (Note: See also my longer review at

DVD Details: The 2008 DVD from Genius Products (The Weinstein Company) comes with a 15-minute documentary by Sorin Avram. Apparently, there are less than 50 movie theaters in Romania, so the distributors of this film toured with it to show it in places that wouldn't ordinarily get a screening. The disc also comes with a 25-minute interview with the director, a 6-minute interview with cinematographer Oleg Mutu (both with subtitles), a theatrical trailer and a bunch of promos at startup.

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