Monday, May 28, 2007

Romanian Film Addressing Illegal Abortion Takes Top Prize at Cannes

Via the Toronto Star, by movie critic Peter Howell:

A graphic movie about an illegal abortion took the Palme d'Or last night at the closing of the 60th edition of the Cannes Film Festival.

Titled 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, a realistic drama Romanian director Cristian Mungiu said he almost didn't make due to lack of ideas and funds won the prize that is second only to Oscar's Best Picture for film glory. His film beat 21 competitors, including ones made by such international heavyweights as Joel and Ethan Coen, Quentin Tarantino and Wong Kar-wai....

Mungiu called the win a victory for small filmmakers the world over. Set in a small Romanian town before the fall of Communism, a time when abortion was punished by harsh jail sentences, the movie makes no judgments but spares no sensibilities; every stage of the procedure is shown.

It unspools in what seems like real time, as a young university student seeks to end an unwanted pregnancy despite the ban against the procedure and her risky decision to wait beyond the first trimester. The student and her female roommate become the prey of the male abortionist who exploits them.

Via the New York Times, by Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott:

In its closing ceremony on Sunday the festival bestowed two of its most important prizes on Romanian films, affirming the vitality of this recently emerging cinema. The top award, the Palme d’Or, went to Cristian Mungiu for “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” an unsparing yet humane look at life during the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu. Additionally the jury for Un Certain Regard, a sidebar to the main competition, gave its highest honor to “California Dreamin,’ ” a first feature by Cristian Nemescu set in Romania during the Kosovo war of 1999. It was a poignant victory, because Mr. Nemescu died in an automobile accident last year at the age of 27.

The audience in the Palais des Festivals was audibly delighted by Mr. Mungiu’s victory. His film, shown early in the festival, had enjoyed ardent critical support from the start. It follows the ordeal of two female university students as one tries to help the other obtain an illegal abortion. Harrowing and brilliantly acted, the movie presents a stark image of life under totalitarian rule without political grandstanding or sentimentality. At times it feels like a horror movie. Through meticulous formal control, Mr. Mungiu generates almost unbearable suspense and also shows, in sometimes graphic detail, the consequences of abortion and also of banning it.

The New York Times also has links to podcasts from the festival (this page may be accessible to subscribers only).

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