None of Romanian filmmaker Radu Muntean’s films have yet seen commercial release in the U.S., but he’s one of his country’s most accomplished realists. His second feature, The Paper Will Be Blue, was a here-and-now recent-history drama in the Paul Greengrass mold, though less oppressively hectic, a topsy-turvy handheld portrait of collective confusion during the December 22, 1989, fall of president Nicolae Ceausescu. Life under Ceausescu—himself the subject of a caustic state-pageantry archival-footage “autobiography” playing outside the 2010 New York Film Festival’s main slate—has been a dominant topic of films from the so-called Romanian New Wave, whether tackled head-on (4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days) or as memory (12:08 East of Bucharest). Many recent films from Romania display a mordant sense of humor, but they are almost uniformly bleak, even the ones set in the present day (Stuff and Dough; Police, Adjective; and The Death of Mr. Lazarescu), showing a country still in institutional and infrastructural disrepair, and therefore implicitly pointing an incriminating finger backward at the dictator.
Muntean’s fourth feature, Tuesday, After Christmas, which he cowrote with Alexandra Baciu and Razvan Radulescu, is a domestic drama in its own way as harrowing as any of the above films, but it’s set against a backdrop of consumerist accumulation rather than systemic decay. Read Benjamin Mercer’s review of Tuesday, After Christmas.