was allowed to shake Ceauşescu’s hand because she was a Party member, who didn’t
have sweaty palms. For a while, that encounter gave her great prestige in her
state-run factory, but she tried to avoid discussing it after the revolution.
Nonetheless, her nostalgia for the past is rather well known in Stere Gulea’s I’m an Old Communist Hag (trailer here), which screens
during Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema 2014.
was once an industrial foreman, but now Emilia and her husband Ţucu make do on
their pensions and a bit of bartering-up. If you ask her, she will tell you the
old dictator did a better job managing the economy. At least, that is how she
remembers it. However, her memory is selective and she may have only noticed
what she wanted to back in the day. She will slowly and only partially come to realize
this when she visits Madame Stroescu to have a dress made for her expat
daughter Alice’s sudden visit.
Stroescu was always a favorite of Alice’s, but Emilia never realized how much
the gentle woman suffered under Communism. She should have been an accomplished
artist, but she was forced to work as a seamstress instead. With her eyesight
now failing, even such work is beyond her, but she still hopes to have her late
father’s confiscated tailor shop restituted to her. It is an inconvenient episode
for Emilia to process, especially with the 2010 financial crisis swirling
around her. In fact, that is why Alice and her American husband Alan have
suddenly arrived. Both have been let go by their multinational employer and now
find themselves at loose ends.
its hot-button title, Hag is a
restrained film that eschews all ideologies in favor of human relationships.
Emilia is not a bad person. She just happened to do somewhat better than her neighbors
during the old regime and is now experiencing a bit of a rough patch due to the
new more cyclical system. Nevertheless, Valeria Seciu’s haunted Stroescu
unambiguously serves as the film’s conscious and moral corrective. It is a
quiet but powerful performance that undercuts Emilia’s romanticized memories.
it is a more restrained and forgiving role than her celebrated turn in Child’s Pose, Luminita Gheorghiu still
commands the screen as Emilia, embracing her complications. Ana Ularu counterbalances
her well as Alice, the daughter who sees the past era in its full historical
context, but struggles with her own personal and professional failings. Texan Collin
Blair’s Alan resembles a young Michael Rapaport, which works rather well in
context. There are probably a dozen additional supporting players playing
former colleagues and family members, who are quite colorful, but feeling
unfailingly real. Still, it is Gheorghiu and Seciu who really define the film
with their contrasting presences.
Gulea was a rather bold critic of the Communist
regime in past films, so Hag should not
be dismissed as revisionism, but more of a meditation on how folks get by,
regardless of the times. It is a nice film, elevated by several thoughtful
performances and a lively yet elegiac score composed by Vasilé Sirli.
Recommended for those interested in seeing a different side of Romanian cinema,
I’m an Old Communist Hag screens this
afternoon (12/7) at the Walter Reade Theater and tomorrow (12/8) in Long Island
at the Jacob Burns Film Center, as part of Making Wave: New Romanian Cinema.
Labels: Communism, New Romanian Cinema '14, Romanian Cinema, Stere Gulea