Cristian Mungiu — one of the main reasons everyone's all excited about the Romanian New Wave — follows up his Palme d'Or winner, 2007's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, with another stark look at a troubled friendship between two women. Beyond the Hills' Voichita and Alina (Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur, who shared the Best Actress prize at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival; for his part, Mungiu won Best Screenplay) were BFFs and, we slowly realize, lovers while growing up at a Romanian orphanage.
When they aged out of the facility, the reserved Voichita moved to a rural monastery to become a nun, and the outburst-prone Alina pinballed around, doing a stint as a barmaid in Germany before turning up in Voichita's village, lugging emotional baggage of the jealous, needy, possibly mentally ill, and definitely misunderstood variety. It can't end well for anyone, as all involved — dismissive local doctors, Alina's no-longer-accommodating foster family, the priest (Valeriu Andriuta), and the other nuns — would rather not spend any time or energy caring for a troubled, destitute outsider. Even Voichita can only look on helplessly as an exorcism, a brutal and cruel procedure, is decided upon as Alina's last, best hope.
Based on a real 2005 incident in Moldavia, Mungiu's unsettling film is a masterpiece of exquisitely composed shots, harsh themes, and naturalistic performances. I conducted the following email interview with Mungiu ahead of Beyond the Hills' Fri/15 Bay Area release.
Literally something for everyone this week: pregnant women, environmentalists, Mumia supporters, World War II buffs, Latin American history buffs, Abbas Kiarostami fan club members, German and French-film devotees, and anyone who's ever dreamed of going over the rainbow (in 3D). I hope you don't sleep much because this weekend is jammed up with new flicks.
Oh, gawd. Another movie awards show? Ain't we done with the tired old titles of 2012? MTV's just announced its nominees for the 2013 MTV Movie Awards, an all-style-and-no-substance annual event that, HOLD UP, may actually be worth watching this year (airdate is April 14).
FILM Anytime you start taking about a robot uprising, people are going to listen — even if you mean it in a theoretical sense, not in a Cyberdyne Systems sense. Local filmmaker Doug Wolens (he made 2000's Butterfly, about activist Julia Hill) tackles artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, conscious machines, and, yes, science fiction in his new doc The Singularity. I spoke with him recently about all of the above.
San Francisco Bay Guardian What is the singularity?Read more »
Greedy Lying Bastards, a film about climate change, opens this Friday (look for my review in tomorrow's paper); it takes a confrontational approach to the subject. But here's the thing: you can argue with a politician or a lobbyist, but a melting iceberg will simply respond with a cold, cold stare.
Tonight and tomorrow at the Castro, check out 2012's similarly-themed but far more meditative Chasing Ice. You may have caught a glimpse of its striking glaciar photography on the Oscar telecast, since that song I didn't like in my review (below) was one of the unlucky tunes shoved into a quick "Here's Best Song nominees that weren't sung by Adele, Hugh Jackman, or Norah Jones, therefore they don't matter" montage. (Needless to say, it didn't win, but it did expose this powerful film to the billion watching, so there's that.)
The Oscars are over! You may now openly admit that Silver Linings Playbook offered just a slightly edgier twist on a pretty predictable rom-com, with one great lead performance (duly rewarded) and a De Niro crying scene. Time to revisit the should-have-won-everything Holy Motors (which came out on Blu-ray this week) and cheer that theaters will finally begin phasing out all the awards hopefuls and bringing in fresh new movies.
This week: Cinequest continues in San Jose, the Roxie screens both a gleefully nasty pre-Code fest (Dennis Harvey's appreciative article here) and a Jeffrey Dahmer doc (my review here). Hollywood trots out yet another fairytale-inspired CG spectacle, Jack the Giant Slayer; a submarine drama with Ed Harris and David Duchovny, Phantom; and a PG-13 horror sequel,The Last Exorcism Part II.
More reviews, including the Oscar-nominated Chilean import No and an informative doc about hunger in America, A Place at the Table, after the jump.
FILM "Go look in the refrigerator." Normally, that's not a particularly sinister phrase. But if the fridge in question happens to be sitting in Jeffrey Dahmer's Milwaukee kitchen, circa 1991, it contains the following: a box of Arm & Hammer, condiments (mustard, ketchup, steak sauce), and a freshly severed human head.Read more »
Important: the Oscar broadcast starts at 4pm on Sunday on ABC. If tradition holds, the ceremony won'tactually beginuntil a little later, but if you want to soak up the full awkwardness of the red carpet, with its "Who are you wearing?" and its reporters mistaking Denzel Washington's daughter for his wife (true story), you will want to tune in on time. (If you're a true fiend, E! starts their red-carpet coverage at 2:30pm.)