Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2021 11:07 am 
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Three amiable losers in search of luck

For the last 17 years or so festival goers have been treated to the uniquely grim, drab, but often powerful fare of the Romanian New Wave - films like Christi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu (my first NYFF film) or Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, impressive, relentlessly unfun but pretty gripping cinema. Here's a contrast, a comedy, from a short story by well known Romanian playwright and humorist Ion Luca Caragiale once film-adapted in 1957. Hold your hats, it's a unassuming and lighthearted and need not be taken seriously.

The subject: three amiable losers win the lottery, but lose the ticket, and spend most of the time trying get it back. It all goes absolutely nowhere, but there's good fun along the way. To show the contrast, this is a bright-colored movie, alternating closeups of the three main actors with elegant middle-distance shots, often symmetrically framed, of cars, storefronts, buildings, making the country look like a quiet, low-keyed, sunny place as seen in an old photograph. It's a cheery, halcyon, but unambitious picture, also a buddy comedy about making do and modest ambitions. It may be rather telling that the car the three drive around in on their search, a repainted Dacia, a proud Romanian product and the country's most lucrative one, has since been bought by Renault. But that was this year, after this movie was made.

There is not much to tell, really. But it's interesting that these three stars produced the film through their own acting school, which also provided a lot of supporting roles with its students. This formula seems a successful one, since their similar collaborative comedy in 2013, Love Building, was a box office hit that spawned a sequel.

The lead character, Dinel (Dorian Boguta, who was in The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu ), is a struggling, rather inept car mechanic who wants to bring back his wife from Italy, where she has gone to earn money but, if fears, gotten involved with a disreputable local. Dinel's best mates are Sile (Dragos Bucur of Police, Adjective), a bearded gambling addict and Pompiliu (Alexandru Papadopol, who's in Toni Erdmann), a more straight-looking guy who might pass for a cop or government employee. Drinking at the local bar, they guess six two-digit numbers for a lottery ticket. It wins. But Dinel carried it in a fanny pack that a bully stole from him. They go looking for the two guys who stole it, and their journey leads them from their provincial town to Bucharest to find them.

The movie keeps the search interesting, if unspectacular. In the building where the theft happened the man go from door to door, looking for the two visitors, and each apartment is a droll vignette, including drug dealers, prostitutes, a clairvoyant and a gullible child. The main value of all this for us may be a new angle on Romania. It's still a place with an inferiority complex, but this time with a cheerful attitude. Interesting; not life-changing.

Two Lottery Tickets/Doua lozuri, 86 mins., debuted at Transylvania festival May 2016, also Thessaloniki, Zurich, Vienna, Hong Kong, Minneapolis, and others in 2017. Screened for this review for its May 21, 2021 theatrical and virtual release by Dekanalog in the US.

(For an original festival review, see Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood Reporter, Jun. 13, 2016.)


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