Tales From the Golden Age [Amintiri din Epoca de Aur]

"Extraordinary"

Tales From the Golden Age [Amintiri din Epoca de Aur] Review


After the riveting 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Mungiu is back with five more stories from Romania's "golden age". But these tales replace that earlier film's brilliantly bleak chill with light-hearted irony.

These are five urban legends from communist-era Romania: A group of villagers led by the local party secretary (Potocean) prepares for a Official Visit, but second-guessing the demands of the inspector (Pirvu) isn't easy. The Party Photographer (Birau) and his assistant (Dunca) prepare to cover a state event, but there's a frantic race to make a deadline when the photo needs doctoring.

Grigore (Ivanov) is a Chicken Driver for a poultry farm whose roadside innkeeper mistress (Popa) finds a way to make some cash on the side. A Greedy Policeman (Sapdaru) orders a pig on the black market, then has to make a plan when it arrives very much alive. And Crina (Cavallioti) teams up with gentle conman Bughi (Iacoban) to become Air Sellers in a block of flats.

Each of these stories has a strong twist that brilliantly brings together both the political themes and the mythical elements. The filmmakers cleverly use a unified style that captures the settings in all their bleak, anonymous Soviet glory while finding colourful details that keep us utterly glued to the screen.

It helps that the characters are full of personality; we become completely involved in their increasingly surreal situations.

These witty, intelligent filmmakers make telling observations without ever being preachy, drawing humour from frustrating situations and constantly surprising us. Memorable moments abound, from a village's desperate attempt to look prosperous ("bring the cow!") to a young couple's nonviolent Bonnie & Clyde-like crime spree. And along the way there are some remarkably emotional scenes as well, most notably in the examination of Grigore's strained, complex marriage.

Mungiu is incredibly skilled at telling deep, resonant stories in an understated way, grabbing our attention and imagination while letting us experience the events along with the characters. This is a film that tells us about a place and time we can't identify with through characters we can't help but understand. And by focussing on real people trying to survive, the film's quiet criticism of a totalitarian regime is that much more forceful.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Cristian Mungiu, Ioana Uricaru, Hanno Hîfer, Constantin Popescu

Producer: Cristian Mungiu, Oleg Mutu

Starring: Tania Popa as Camelia, Diana Cavallioti as Crina (segment "The Legend of the Air Sellers"), Radu Iacoban as Bughi (segment "The Legend of the Air Sellers"), Vlad Ivanov as Grigore (segment "The Legend of the Chicken Driver"), Liliana Mocanu as Marusia (segment "The Legend of the Chicken Driver"), Alexandru Potocean as The Secretary (segment "The Legend of the Official Visit")

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