Friday, 22 February 2008

GFF Review: California Dreamin’ (Endless) – by Joseph Wren

Director: Cristian Nemescu
Screenwriters: Cristian Nemescu, Catherine Linstrum, Tudor Voican
Running Time: 155 mins
Certificate: TBD

Release Date: 11 April

The (Endless) in the title doesn’t exactly refer to the film’s particularly long running time, but the fact that this film is being released without having been properly finished. Prior to completing post-production of California Dreamin’, the film’s talented young director, Cristian Nemescu, lost his life in an auto accident, and the film as we see it is the way that Nemescu left it, which was nearly finished, which makes for a particularly unique cinematic experience.

Taken from a true story, a group of American Marines transporting NATO cargo have their train stopped in a small Romanian town en route to Kosovo during the war in 1999. While stuck waiting for paperwork to arrive, the town’s mayor takes advantage of the new visitors, convincing the townspeople to celebrate and embrace the Americans in hopes of boosting the town’s profile and economy. The results are hilarious, as the Marines are invited to a celebration in which they are entertained by an Elvis impersonator, performing atop a stage decorated by paintings of American icons such as Bill Clinton and The Terminator. Romanian schoolgirls look for excitement, and the film’s main character is a sexy teenager named Monica, a quiet but explosive soul who falls for one of the Marines in hopes of getting a ticket out of town. Operating on a multi-strand narrative, which includes flashbacks to another character’s experience during a WWII bombing, as well as the tensions between the hot-headed Commanding Officer and everyone else in his way to Kosovo, the film covers a lot of ground before its ambiguous conclusion.

Nemescu and his co-writers have shown a tremendous knack for dialogue, including the English speaking parts, which flow with a natural rhythm adding to the film’s realism. The film, though overlong and unfinished, is always interesting, relevant, and often exceptionally funny. California Dreamin’ ranks among the very best in recent Romanian cinema, further exhibiting that the national sensibilities of black humor and humanity are something very special.

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