Monday, September 27, 2010

NYFF ’10: Tuesday, After Christmas

A big beefy guy, Paul Hanganu does not exactly look irresistible, yet he has both a wife and a young professional mistress. Frankly, he ought to consider himself lucky to have just one of them. We can say this with certainty thanks to the long, revealing nude scene that opens Radu Muntean’s Tuesday, After Christmas (trailer here), one of several Romanian films screening during the 48th New York Film Festival.

A reasonably successful banker, Paul is fairly good about sharing family duties with his wife Adriana. It is he who escorts their young daughter Mara to her attractive pediatric dentist. As a result, Paul and the younger Raluca do indeed strike up an affair. She has been largely content as the other woman, but when Adriana impulsively decides to accompany them for an appointment it proves to be a destabilizing event. Paul will have to choose between his wife and his mistress—a decision that will directly affect his plans for that titular Tuesday.

Helming Tuesday with all due deliberation, Muntean’s approach is clearly compatible with the aesthetics of the so-called Romanian New Wave. Yet, his deceptively simple story of infidelity particularly lends itself to a style that privileges intimacy over action. In truth, Tuesday is defined and distinguished by a handful of masterful scenes marked by Muntean’s long continuous shots. As the film opens, Mundean half seduces us with Paul and Raluca’s naked forms (she is in great shape, him not so much), only to de-romanticize their assignation, ultimately grounding viewers in all their imperfections. Uncomfortable hardly does justice to the awkward dynamic when Adriana invites herself along to Raluca’s office. However, her response to Paul’s eventual confession scorches with honesty.

Like so many recent cinema exports from Romania, there is simply no denying the demanding nature of Tuesday. It is definitely a film for mature adults as well—truly its poster does not mislead. However, patrons with a respectable attention span will be rewarded with some exceptional performances. As the wronged Adriana, Mirela Oprisor is totally convincing and absolutely devastating. Though her role is less showy, Maria Popistasu makes the reserved Raluca a believably fully dimensional human figure. However, Mimi Branescu’s big unfaithful lug should have had more of an edge. Instead, he seems desperate for everyone to like him, which will not be happening.

Individual scenes of Tuesday will sear themselves into viewers’ memory, while the filler in between might tax their patience. Still, altogether it is a brutally honest work. One of the festival’s stronger Romanian selections, it screens tomorrow (9/28) and Friday (10/1) as the 2010 NYFF continues at Alice Tully Hall.