Cast: Anne Marie Chertic, Constantin Chiriac, Paul Chiributa
Somewhere in Palilula anything can happen, and frequently it does. We are invited into a world turned upside down in Silviu Purcărete’s carnivalesque triumph. Serafim, a young paediatrician, arrives in this ghost town, and we learn about the place and its inhabitants through his eyes and the stories he tells. Hard spirits and cigarettes are the staple diet of a community of drunks, doctors, cleaners, prostitutes and a hermaphrodite. There are no children, the hospital patients are not sick, and soon Serafim starts to adapt and feel like he belongs there. Purcărete lifts us to emotional heights with a scintillating score (by composer Vasilé Şirli) and awe-inspiring theatrical tableaux (production designers are Helmut Stürmer and Dragoş Buhagiar), then lets us fall into depths of visceral mire, then up again and so on. The director immerses us in fantasy but his tale is hugely allegorical. Here, the legacy of Soviet rule and the onset of market economy in Romania are parodied and mythologised. By pushing surrealist and magic realist genres of cinema, Purcărete carves out a space for himself alongside Luis Buñuel and Federico Fellini. This UK premiere at the EEFF comes highly recommended.
The East End Film Festival opens on 3 July and runs until 8 July 2012. Somewhere in Palilula screens on 7 July at the Rich Mix. For more information please visit the East End Film Festival website.
Cast: Constantin Barbulescu, Camelia Maxim, Catalin Paraschiv
Dark business is afoot in an isolated Romanian village. There are inept executions in the dead of night, and the whole town seems to be in on something. All in all it’s a bad time for faint-hearted local boy Vlad (Catalin Paraschiv) to return from Italy and start poking his nose into a local drunkard’s death. The local priest (Vlad’s father) is involved somehow. The local cop seems more concerned with his marijuana supply. His grandfather is clearly barking. Vlad appears to be on his own, but any conspiracy is going to be impossible to maintain if the bodies refuse to stay buried….
Faye Jackson’s winningly offbeat vampire/zombie picture is a welcome addition to the genre, functioning more as a dry-witted magic realist mystery than a conventional horror film. The strigoi are quite chatty for the undead and seem to have a hard time grasping the ramifications of their state. They are florid of face and incessantly hungry, and the cause of some consternation among the villagers, who quibble about folklore and seem more concerned that the inconvenient buggers are upsetting the boat than anything else. Jackson foregrounds the small-town politics and the inability of anybody to get to grips with the problems that rise out of the communist past, inherited through land and blood.
Anybody demanding the kick-ass kung fu or CGI splatter scenes that have dominated the vampire flick over the last decade or so will be disappointed. But Strigoi is more interesting than all that guff, with a tone closer to Whisky Galore! than The Wicker Man. It keeps you on the back foot with eccentric characters and cat-and-mouse dialogue, odd visual flourishes and strange situations. As when a terrified woman spends the whole night feeding a ravenous strigoi all the food in the house to stop the creature from supping on her, a scene that’s weird and funny and domestic at the same time, and typical of a film that’s playing a different game to the one you might expect. It’s a UK/Romanian co-production in English, and the DVD comes with a Faye Jackson short, Lump, a queasy little medical tale. Well worth a look.
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