Tuesday, April 05, 2016

The Treasure

I think this is the first time I've been back to the Belmont Studio since they were closed down for a few months last year, and I sort of wonder if during that time they removed the nicer seats and put them in West Newton, leaving the ones without cupholders here. I distinctly remember there being cupholders, because I used one to hold my burrito the last time. But now, now cupholders, and the affiliated burrito place next door is no more. Bummer, because it's a tiny lobby with limited concession options, and I was hungry.

I was out there for Belmont World Film, which is a neat little even that was kind of homeless last year. It was pretty crowded for that lobby, with a lot of local Romanians coming out for the film.

I get more impatient than I should at these sorts of screenings, where the post-film Q&A/discussion becomes a lot of rambling statements, but I'm trying to appreciate that more, hoping to be less impatient because it's not helping me with the topic at hand (the movie) and more interested in learning about other cultures in general. Not exactly succeeding (and it gets tougher when the person talking has missed something basic and there's a half hour between buses if I don't catch the next), but it's probably worth trying to get to one or two more of these this year.

(And I appear to have written this review just as the film comes off Amazon streaming. I am just generally behind this year.)

Comoara (The Treasure)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 March 2016 at the Belmont Studio Cinema (Belmont World Film Series, digital)

Even the titles of Corneliu Porumboiu's best-known recent films - 12:08 Easy of Bucharest and Police, Adjective - are focused on a sort of precision that can sometimes be maddening and The Treasure, ("Comoara" in the original Romanian) certainly starts out that way, hitting the audience right off the bat with a pair of the sort of conversations about minutiae that just don't happen outside of art-house films. It does eventually loosen up into a deadpan comedy, but that humor might not be enough for some considering the painstaking steps Porumboiu takes to get there.

The film centers on Costi Toma (Toma Cuzin), who is getting by a bit better than many in Bucharest, but still doesn't have enough money to float his neighbor Adrian Negoescu (Adrian Purcarescu) the loan he asks for. Not at first, at least; when Negoescu finally explains that his great-grandfather buried valuables on the family estate before it was sized by the communists (with the land only returned to the descendants relatively recently), Costi grows interested and scrapes enough together to hire a guy with access to a metal detector. Once he has stated along the path, the operation becomes more questionable - the government tends to seize anything with historical and cultural significance (interpreted broadly), and the details of Negoescu's story seem to become a little less favorable with each telling.

Costi is detail-oriented and basically honest, which would seem to be about half-useful in terms of this particular scheme. It also gives the film a dry sort of start as he initiates protracted discussions with both his son Alin (Nicodim Toma) and Negoescu about things that seem extremely extraneous. That Toma Cuzin and Porumboiu opt to underplay the character initially seems like a curious choice - there are beats that, if emphasized, could give Costi a stronger personality or make what's slow going more dramatic - but it pays off later on when the audience is able to get a fuller picture: We see a man who is curious but not obsessive, on the lookout for opportunity but not necessarily greedy, and mostly level-headed and conciliatory. That kind of man is not usually an exciting character, and though it describes most in the audience, viewers don't necessarily identify with him because they tend to grab on to something that sticks out. Still, by the time the film is over, an affection has likely developed for this man; Cuzin and Porumboiu have quietly brought his virtues to the fore, even if they are sometimes well-disguised.

Full review on EFC.

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