Tales of the Golden Age (Amintiri Din Epoca De Aur)
Affectionate Romanian cinema
Cristian Mungiu, the Palme D’Or winning Romanian filmmaker of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, would almost certainly find himself in contention with American communications magnate Harold S Geneen’s much quoted belief that ‘We must not be hampered by yesterday’s myths in concentrating on today’s needs’. But then the bombastic Geneen never had to live through the very worst years of the Ceausescu regime, the final fifteen years of which where marked by a self aggrandising insanity that left the Romanian populous fearful, depressed and in some cases hungry. Marshalling the talents of some of Romania’s best new filmmakers, Mungiu has now produced a portmanteau film to revisit some of the myths that came from that period, some of which are undoubtedly more than myths.
Kicking off with ‘The Legend of the Official Visit’, in which the small village of Vizuresti prepares for an official visit with a farcical hysteria that can only be leavened by a kind of callous surrealism, the film unfolds into episodes of bewildering bureaucratic comedy as party photographers, long-distance lorry drivers, greedy policemen and young con men come up against party rule.
It’s an affectionate portrait of the all too recent madness that gripped this much sinned against country. Reflected in the increasingly erratic personality cult, nationalism and a deterioration in foreign relations with the Western powers as well as the Soviet Union that marked the second decade of Nicolae Ceausescu’s rule, these tales already have an inbuilt horror. Having opened up his muted Tales from the Golden Age series to other Romanian directors who were old enough to remember the period, Mungiu (who directs two of the segments) allows himself and his cohorts an easier, more accessible style than his previous films. Stylistically it’s a fine balance between the popularist Italian comedies of the 1960s and 70s (Fellini’s comedies and Vittoria De Sica’s lighter weight films are comparable) and Kieslowski’s wry sense of black doom.
Beautifully executed by all concerned, with acute period observations, smart in-sxjokes and excellent performances Tales from the Golden Age is a joy.
(12A) 131min. GFT, Glasgow from Fri 30 Oct.