times Nelu Stroe’s mandatory military service has been postponed, but make no
mistake, as a cameraman for the state media service, he is still very
definitely at the government’s beck and call. He thinks his has charted an
easier course for himself, but he starts to question his choices when he meets
a relatively free-spirited woman. Subtly but subversively, Mircea Daneliuc holds
a sly mirror up to 1980s Communist society in Microphone Test, which screens as part of a retrospective tribute
to the filmmaker at this year’s Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema (at the Jacob
Burns Film Center).
is Daneliuc himself behind Stroe’s era appropriate mustache, as well as his constantly
rolling camera. The year might be 1980, but Stroe works on a very contemporary
sounding show. In their early forerunner of reality TV, Stroe films his
on-again-off-again lover as she ambushes petty criminals. Her preferred prey
are train passengers caught riding without tickets, such as the unrepentant Ani
Covete. Much to his surprise, Covete reaches out to Stroe, but not in hopes of
spiking her story. Instead, she rather smoothly charms him into loaning her
begins a stormy, complicated romance. Although, on some level Stroe realizes he
is being played, he cannot help falling for her. He also starts to sympathize
with her frustrations with the labor and residency regulations that prevent her
from taking a sustainable job. Seeing bureaucracy from her perspective is an
eye-opener. However, the health of their relationship becomes rather precarious
due to her continued contact with her ex and his yet to be fixed draft notice.
Test might seem like decidedly
cautious satire by our standards, but it was pretty rigorous stuff for its
time. The groovy atmosphere also helps sweeten its caustic attitude. In terms
of tone, think of it as a cross between Andrzej Wajda’s Without Anesthesia and a frank 1970s relationship dramedy—sort of.
In fact, it takes several very strange detours that are still quite in keeping
with its spirit.
is really terrific as Stroe, helping his cause no end. One could argue he gives
two distinct performances, with and without mustache, but they are both great.
As Covete, Tora Vasilescu resembles a Romanian Debra Winger and she has a
similar unpredictability. That might make Gina Patrichi a Gena Rowlands or Anne
Bancroft figure as the older, more cynical reporter. There are serious sparks
flying whenever the three play off each other.
Test is not an outraged protest film, but it offers viewers
surreptitious peaks inside the Romania of its time. It is a messy world, filled
with absurdist regulations, bitter power games, and good old fashioned lust. Intellectually
fascinating and almost perversely engrossing, Microphone Test screens this Thursday (12/3) as part of Making
Waves at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville.
Labels: Making Waves '15, Mircea Daneliuc, Romanian Cinema