Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lost Island of VHS...XIV

An Unforgettable Summer - Lucian Pintilie - 1994

Even though in the past few years there have been maybe half a dozen notable Romanian films most moviegoers in America can count the number of Romanian films they have seen on one hand. But prior to that the pickings were mighty slim. One film that some may have seen would have been An Unforgettable Summer. However, they likely wouldn't have seen it because it was Romanian or because it was directed by Lucian Pintilie. They would have seen it because it starred Kristin Scott Thomas who was hot off of Four Weddings and a Funeral.
The story, which takes place in the 1920's, is about an army officer who with this wife and three kids is essentially exiled to a garrison out near the Macedonian border. The officer is Captain Petre Dumitriu [Claudiu Bleont] who is a short, monocled man who follows orders without questioning them. His wife [Kristin Scott Thomas] makes the best of the situation by bringing a bit of sophistication to the household, and treating everyone - including the Bulgarian peasants who work for them - with respect. However, after they are there a short while, there is an attack by some Macedonian bandits who kill some of the Romanian soldiers on duty. Captain Dumitriu is commanded to circle the wagons and take no chances, which includes the strict instructions to execute the Bulgarian peasants. An order which his wife is adamantly opposed to. What's a Captain in the army supposed to do? Especially when on the one hand his wife will never respect him again and on the other his subordinates are chopping at his heels to get his job.

Pintilie directs the movie in a stately manner filling the frame in foreground and background and some nice camera movement. He also has some occasional dynamic flourishes [the movie's opening and ending in particular are amazing]. And, yes, Ms Thomas speaks Romanian in the movie. How can we not be impressed by this charming polyglot?

The film's conflict comes down to will Captain Dumitriu follow or disobey orders.

It's more than worth seeing it if you can find the VHS.

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