to the postscript, during the years of 2006-2012, “23 members of parliament, 15
government ministers, and over 100 mayors and 50 magistrates” were sent up the
river in Romania, which constitutes remarkably clean governance here in New
York and New Jersey. However, the underlying system of corruption deeply
troubled former prosecutor Cristian Panait. That would be the late Cristian
Panait. The controversies surrounding Panait’s untimely demise are transparently
fictionalized in Tudor Giurgiu’s Why Me? (trailer here), which screens
during the 2015 edition of Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema.
Cristian Panduru is the fast-tracked golden boy in the state prosecutors’
office, specializing in government corruption cases. He already has plenty to
keep him busy, but the prosecution of Bogdan Leca, a notoriously crooked
prosecutor from a neighboring jurisdiction could decisively make Panduru’s
reputation. Unfortunately, when Panduru tries to execute a search warrant, the
crafty Leca runs circles around him. Nevertheless, Panduru’s superiors still
file charges against Leca, despite his inability to turn up anything
incriminating. Panduru quickly realizes the fix is in and he will be the
designated fall guy, if needed.
pressure to convict Leca, Panait secretly shifts the focus of his investigation.
Before long, he suspects the shadowy involvement of Romania’s SRI, the post-Revolutionary
incarnation of the dreaded Securitate, one of seven government intelligence
service then active in the country. The more he sleuths out, the greater the
pressure Panduru’s superiors exert trying to bring him back in line. It will
the standards of the Romanian New Wave aesthetic movement, Why Me is a barn burner of a thriller. However, viewers who do not
have a few recent Romanian films under their belt will need time to acclimate to
its severely icy vibe. Still, there is no missing its rampant (but apparently
justified) paranoia. Rather pleasantly surprisingly, Why Me is way more closely akin to cynical 1970s conspiracy
thrillers like The Conversation than
anyone who has soldiered through films like Aurora
and The Death of Mr. Lazarescu will
ever dare to hope.
In all honesty, Emilian Oprea’s Panduru is
so tightly wound and uptight, it practically hurts to watch him walk. It is a
quiet, but bitterly compelling performance that takes on legitimately tragic
dimensions. As his direct superior, Prosecutor Codrea, Mihai Constantin truly
personifies bureaucratic villainy. Alin Florea adds plenty of acerbic élan as
the more-formidable-than-he-looks Leca. On the other hand, Panduru’s girlfriend
and dodgy colleagues are mostly unremarkable stock characters.
viewers a comprehensive sense of how tricky post-Communist politics, economics,
and jurisprudence have been in Romania, in large measure thanks to the Securitate
veterans who just carried on as usual in the SRI. Giurgiu never dumbs it down,
as he methodically peels back layer after layer of the corrupt onion. It is a challenging
film that might be a tad longer than necessary (131 minutes, really?), but maintains
a moody, trust-no-one vibe throughout. Recommended for those who appreciate
rigorous fact-based political thrillers, Why
Me? screens tonight (12/5) and Monday afternoon (12/7) at the Walter Reade,
as part of this year’s Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema.
Labels: Cristian Panait, Making Waves '15, Romanian Cinema