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Sleeper of the Week: ‘The Treasure’

Sleeper of the Week: 'The Treasure'

Sleeper of the Week takes a film that only few critics have seen and shines some light on it.

“The Treasure”
Dir: Corneliu Porumboiu
Criticwire Average: A-

Romanian writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu brings his signature comedic style to his newest film “The Treasure,” about a young man named Costi (Toma Cuzin) who helps his neighbor Adrian (Adrian Purcarescu) search for buried treasure in the backyard of Adrian’s family’s estate. Porumboiu’s deliberate, patient style isn’t for everyone, but those who tap in to the director’s comedic rhythms will not only find plenty of minimalist comedy but also some poignant meditations on Romania’s troubled past and uncertain present. “The Treasure” — now in a handful of theaters and available on demand — is a modern parable thats functions as an adventure film, exploring the inherent comedy in modern Romanian life while finding some hope in an otherwise quiet existence.

More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:

A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“The Treasure” is like the work of Samuel Beckett’s long-lost Balkan cousin — bleak, stoic and suffused with a flinty, exasperated empathy for its ridiculous characters. It’s also a subtle, almost stealthy X-ray of the European soul in a time of persistent economic trouble — a more effective and clear-eyed reckoning with the present crisis on the continent than, say, Miguel Gomes’s sprawling, intellectually confused “Arabian Nights.” Read more.

Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com

The Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu has a style that’s likely — and I’m being super-optimistic here — a potentially acquired taste for mainstream American moviegoers. His best-known picture in this country is 2009’s “Police, Adjective,” a tense and mordantly funny drama whose examination of the ethics of law-enforcement (which climaxes in a marathon scene centered around the definition of the word “police,” hence the movie’s title) gained extra resonance for being made and set in a country that was for much of the 20th century more or less a police state. His best movies embody a kind of stylistic paradox: they are slow-paced, but also narratively concise; they contain long, slow scenes in which nothing in particular “happens” but they also feel entirely fat-free. Porumboiu’s new picture “The Treasure” is entirely in keeping with that mode but also expands on it, with disarmingly delightful results. It is in a sense the director’s first out-and-out comedy, and it’s also something of a fairytale. Read more.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club

Porumboiu’s movies treat his country’s totalitarian past as a joke played on the present, leaving his everymen and every-functionaries unable to resolve non-problems, give definitive answers, or admit anything. Here, the myth of Sisyphus, the Greek king cursed to roll a boulder uphill only to have it always roll down again, plays out anytime anyone asks a question. And that’s “The Treasure” in a nutshell; it’s a movie that’s absurdly short on conflict, but in which everyone seems to be doing their damnedest to protract every situation. (For one, it takes the men almost half the movie to actually get to the house.) It started out as a documentary about Porumboiu’s friend Adrian Purcarescu and the family legend about a fortune buried by his great-grandfather; when that treasure hunt turned out to be a bust, Porumboiu re-conceived the project as a fiction film, casting his buddy as a fictionalized version of himself. Thus, we have neighbors Adrian (Purcarescu) and Costi (Toma Cuzin) setting off in a hare-brained scheme to look for gold at Adrian’s homestead, which was seized by the Communists and served as an electronics factory, welding shop, kindergarten, disco, and strip club in rapid succession before being returned to his family. Read more.

Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian

“The Treasure,” which begins with a conversation about Robin Hood, eventually reveals itself to be a homegrown fable. Adrian’s family’s hidden riches are in Islaz, where the Romanian proclamation of 1848 took place. Moreover, lost treasure is something of a real and touchy subject between Romania and Russia. The longest section of the picture is spent scanning a piece of lawn, listening to electronic whoops, poking at a computer scanner that no one really knows how to work and, eventually, digging. There’s a twist and then an even bigger twist, neither of which I saw coming, but both are absolutely perfect. You don’t have to be a scholar of late 20th-century Romanian economics to get the satire. However, I suspect that those who do catch the signifiers will find even more riches in the soil. Those who don’t, but stay with it to the end, will still reap reward. Read more.

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