World Cinema: When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism

WhenEveningFallsOnBucharestOrMetabolism-RR

When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism
Corneliu Porumboiu (Romania/France, 2013)

Romanian auteur Corneliu Porumboiu’s third feature brings to the subject of filmmaking itself the same mix of surface minimalism and subtextual density he’d applied to recent historical memory in 12:08 East of Bucharest and institutional corruption in Police, Adjective. We first encounter a director (Bogdan Dumitrache) behind the wheel of a car, as he casually informs an actress (Diana Avramut) she’ll be performing a planned scene in the nude. Alina balks, needing at least some logical justification for this seemingly gratuitous change. In a series of successive encounters Paul attempts to provide her with just that, while it’s quite clear that he’s just making up excuses as he goes along. Their working relationship is one thing; their sexual relationship is another. Yet aren’t both part of a single professional/creative package, and negotiated in the same half-intellectual, half-instinctual terms? Exactly who is manipulating whom here? If it’s true, as Paul says, that reality deepens with the length of a camera shot—which is why, though digital lensing’s theoretically “infinite” span tempts, he sticks with the eleven-minute 35mm celluloid limit he’s been “formed by”—to what extent do Metabolism’s eighteen stationary widescreen shots abandon fiction for autobiography? Recalling the gamesmanship of recent films by makers as disparate as Abbas Kiarostami and Hong Sang-soo, Porumboiu’s latest throws down a challenge that seems aimed at true cineastes. The more you bring to it, the more you’ll get out of it, as is wryly suggested in a sequence where Paul gets the upper hand: he feigns horror at discovering Alina has never even heard of Antonioni.

—Dennis Harvey

• Written by Porumboiu. Photographed by Tudor Mircea. With Diana Avramut, Bogdan Dumitrache, Mihaela Sirbu. (89 mins)

Writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu was born in 1975 in the Moldavian city of Vaslui. Following several well-received shorts his first feature, 2006’s 12:08 East of Bucharest, won the Caméra d’Or at Cannes in addition to sweeping that year’s awards in his native Romania. Police, Adjective won Un Certain Regard and the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes in 2009.

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