Saturday, February 15, 2014

Romanian game changer: Calin Peter Netzer's CHILD'S POSE starring Luminita Gheorghiu

It is difficult to describe the journey you'll take via CHILD'S POSE, the new film directed by Calin Peter Netzer, shown below, and co-written by Mr. Netzer and Razvan Radulescu. One of the wonderful things about the film is that, unlike so many fine Romanian films of late, this one doesn't go exactly where you expect it to. Or, rather, it goes there, all right -- but then travels much farther in a different direction. Here we have another look at the Romanian haute bourgeoisie in all its entitled glory and narcissism, this time via a successful woman and her immediate family, specifically the treasured adult child whom she has apparently spoiled to the point of oblivion.

For the foremost role in his film, Netzer has tapped a very special actress, with whom he now has a decade-long history, Luminita Gheorghiu (shown below and on poster above), who rewards him with an the kind of performance -- deep, fierce, transcendent -- that ought to win every award in the roster. Ms Gheorghiu has the power to bring an audience with her wherever she goes, and in Child's Pose, my goodness, does she travel. By the end of this remarkable movie, you will feel as though you, too, have experienced what her character Cornelia does --  the actress is that involving and overwhelming.

The film begins with a conversation between Cornelia (above) and her best friend Olga, a therapist (played by Natasa Raab, below), in which Cornelia complains nonstop about her son's either ignoring or insulting her and about the horrible match he's made with his wife Carmen. Already, we would happily throttle this woman.

Then something happens that would seem to be a game changer for Cornelia and her son (played in a quietly, intense, close-to-the-vest performance by Bogdan Dumitrache, below). How she handles this is utterly expected, but how those around her react offers the surprise inherent in life that movies, even some very good ones, often miss.

Netzer and Radulescu capture beautifully the ugliness of entitlement and how it works. They capture, too, and every bit as well, the administrative work world of the police, of a doctor, a lawyer, and in one of the film's most riveting scenes -- a kind of duel between Cornelia and another member of the entitled crowd -- what happens when two of the powerful engage in a face-off.

It's the final quarter of the movie that seals the deal, however, when Cornelia, her family, and we visit the characters who have suffered the heaviest dose of pain and loss. This scene breaks new ground in both its immense emotional force and its ability to remain ambivalent still. What has happened here? You'll have plenty to discuss, or at least to think about, post-viewing.

Netzer's film is remarkable for its ability to probe human nature with such psychological acuity. How Cornelia tries and perhaps succeeds in co-opting others, what obsessive parent-child behavior does to both parties, the power of genuine empathy vs that of narcissism -- all of this will circle your mind as you watch.

And you will watch. Thanks to the strength of the filmmaker's vision and the performances he draws from his cast, you won't be able to turn away. Child's Pose -- from the ever more necessary Zeitgeist Films, and running 112 minutes -- opens this coming Wednesday, February 19, in New York City at Film Forum, and in Los Angeles on Friday, February 21, at the Landmark NuArt. In the weeks and months to come, the movie will play all across the country. To see currently scheduled playdates, with cities and theaters listed, simply click here.

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