This is the first in a series of pieces that are about film-related stuff that doesn't actually fit into reviews, or is about things I've been seeing that I'm not reviewing. These are - and this is either a promise or a warning, depending on your point of view - longer than reviews. A lot longer. So they've been broken into several parts for easier digestion.
I recently picked up the new UK DVD from the Masters Of Cinema series of DeSica's Shoeshine and the new Criterion two-disc of Bicycle Thieves. These are films sitting at Ground Zero of the Italian "neo-realism" movement. Also Laurie Collyer's Sundance Hit Sherrybaby, mostly because I'd heard such great things about Maggie Gyllenhaal's performance, and the Romanian film, The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu (Tartan Video), which I'd been hearing about since Cannes 05. Some of my colleagues on the Thessalonika FIPRESCI jury played hooky to see it when it played at that festival and came back raving about it.
Indeed, several reviewers I respect were appropriately ga-ga - here's a couple of quotes with links to the full reviews:
J Hoberman in The Village Voice:
"The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is highly scripted but shot like a documentary. As filmmaking, it's a tour de force, with Puiu successfully simulating - or rather, orchestrating - the institutional texture of a Frederick Wiseman vérité."
Here's the last paragraph of Roger Ebert's review.
"The credits include a long list of technical advisers, but it doesn't take an adviser to convince you the movie is authentic. Like "United 93" and the work of the Dardenne brothers, it lives entirely in the moment, seeing what happens as it happens, drawing no conclusions, making no speeches, creating no artificial dramatic conflicts, just showing people living one moment after another, as they must."
Andrew O'Hehir at Salon.com verged on the orgasmic.
And The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu sits there on my pile of unwatched DVDs, wondering when I'm going to crack the plastic wrap.
I've had it since November, and since I'm not compelled to watch it to review it, I can't bring myself to watch it. I'm sure it's everything people say it. One of the things people say is that it's a 150-minute film about an aged Rumanian alcoholic being slowly killed by alcohol and, finally, bureaucratic neglect. If I'm not seeing this for work, why do I want to spend two and a half hours watching that?
Which got me thinking...