shortlisted films in this year's roundup of Best Foreign Language Film contenders, but Romania's entry nonetheless deserves a look from foreign film aficionados. Its title -- AFERIM! (which I am told translates from the Turkish as Bravo!) -- can only be meant ironically, as there is damned little to be "bravo-ing" about in this movie, its quality notwithstanding. These days, we are most used to films that come out of Romania as tackling one of two subjects: the current and difficult life in this now-post-Communist country or a look at the "bad old days" under the Nicolae Ceausescu regime.
Radu Jude (shown at right), along with his co-writer, Florin Lazarescu, and all the locations, set and costume people have given us a "period piece" that looks, to western eyes at least, even more "period" than we might imagine (maybe 1735, rather than 1835) -- so backward does everything, especially the characters, seem. But that, or course, would be the point of the ironic Bravo!
Teodor Corban, above) who has been assigned by the town's "boss" (the fellow in that bizarre "hat" shown two photos above and three photos below) to bring back an escaped gypsy slave. The circumstances under which the slave escaped will eventually become clear, but for now the Constable and his nearly-grown son head out to find the slave, while encountering all sorts of oddities along their way.
Big World Pictures and running 105 minutes, Aferim! opens this Friday, January 22, in New York City (at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and the Angelika Film Center) and Los Angeles (at Laemmle's Royal and Playhouse 7) and in San Francisco (at the Opera Plaza Cinema). To see all currently scheduled playdates, click here and scroll down.