Romania is still an inexpensive place to film a horror movie (just ask Charles Band, Elvira or Bruce Campbell), as well as place to stage more prestigious work; it has doubled for the Appalachians in Cold Mountain, and for India in the upcoming Youth Without Youthby Francis Ford Coppola. Their native film industry is far less known in the US. According to the Pacific Film Archives' Jason Sanders, Romania only makes six films a year. They're doing something right, or at least the Cannes Film Festival thinks so: Romanian films have won two Un Certain Regard awards, one Camera d'Or, and one Palme d'Or in the last three years.

At the Archives at UC Berkeley -- relatively central to the seven million residents of the San Francisco Bay Area -- the PFA is assembling a six-night program of Romanian films. If they have anything in common, it's telling about the trauma of the almost science-fiction evil of the Ceausescu dictatorship, and the tale of his hideo-comic downfall on Dec 22, 1989. The Paper Will Be Blue by Radu Muntean (Dec 2) stages the fear and excitement of the revolution in Romania as an urbane thriller; the Scorsese/Wim Wenders executive-produced The Way I Spent the End of the World (above) by Catalin Mitulescu (Nov 3) takes a more impressionistic, nostalgic approach.

Also making its California debut on Nov. 3 is California Dreamin' (Endless). It isn't called Endless because of a 155 minute running time, but rather because the director Cristian Nemescu died before the final edit. Armand Assante, recently the best part of American Gangster, if you ask me, plays a NATO Army Captain immobilized in a one-horse town by bureaucrats and hustlers. The Great Communist Bank Robbery (2004, Nov 25) concerns a really memorable Communist atrocity. After a 1959 bank robbery, the six who were arrested (guilty or not) were made to act in a reenactment film designed to show the Romanians that crime didn't pay; they were executed afterwards. Director Alexandru Solomon investigates this lost bit of history. Occident (Nov 17) is the first film by director Cristian Mungiu, whose still unreleased in our area 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days copped the Palme D'Or at Cannes 2007. And a series of short films on Nov 25 includes early work by Cristi Puiu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, a Cannes winner in '05), and Corneliu Porumboiu (12:08 East of Bucharest, Camera d'Or winner 2006). Pretty soon you'll be able to have a quick answer to the question, "What's your favorite Romanian film?"

categories Awards, Cinematical