Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
might call this Romanian style tomb-raiding. Instead of ancient crypts, Costi’s
unemployed neighbor invites him to help plunder his own family history. If
Adrian’s grandfather really did bury something in his backyard on the eve of
the Communist nationalization, the two men hope to find and split it. Of
course, that will be a big “if” in The
Treasure, Corneliu Porumboiu’s wry comedy of manners and bureaucracy (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
foreclosure on his flat, Adrian offers Costi a deal. If he can pay the eight
hundred Euros necessary for a professional metal detecting service, they will
share the proceeds of everything they might find. Based on his late grandfather’s
cryptic words to him, Adrian is absolutely convinced there must be something
there, sort of how George Bluth, Sr. would say “there’s always money in the
a mild mannered government office worker like Costi, eight hundred Euros
represents a considerable investment. Just taking time away from work to
schedule the appointment arouses his supervisor’s suspicions, in an absurdly
droll scene that could very well be a defining example of Porumboiu-ism.
However, Cornel offers them an off-the-books special behind his boss’s back.
For half the price, he agrees to meet them with the gear in Islaz, the site of
the 1848 democratic uprising. However, they must be secretive about their
scheme, because the government is entitled to claim anything deemed to have
national cultural significance.
the discreet, severely reserved nature of Porumboiu’s style, you might not
realize in-the-moment how much lunacy unfolds during The Treasure. It has the heart of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, but the tone of Porumboiu’s “greatest
hit,” Police, Adjective. However,
whenever a supposed authority figure saunters into the frame, the absurdity
that follows is impossible to miss. The toxicity of the Communist era also
lingers over their best laid plans, like an annoying ghost.
stone-faced, Toma Cuzin slowly but surely brings out Costa’s endearing everyman
qualities. Adrian Purcarescu, Porumboiu’s filmmaker colleague, whose own
metal-detecting exploits inspired the film, is uproariously neurotic as his
namesake. Similarly, real life metal-detector Corneliu Cozmei is a pitch
perfect Droopy Dog foil for the resentful Adrian. Their caustic bickering is
wickedly droll and acutely realistic.
That is also pretty much true of Porumboiu’s
film in general. It is understated as a Stephen Wright monologue, but it builds
to an uncharacteristically satisfying conclusion. This is not just Porumboiu’s
most accessible film, but perhaps the most reachable and diggable film to be broadly
associated with the Romanian New Wave. Highly recommended for sophisticated
palettes, The Treasure opens this
Friday (1/8) in New York, at the IFC Center.
Labels: Corneliu Porumboiu, Romanian Cinema