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California Dreamin' (Endless) -(Nesfarsit) 

California Dreamin' (Endless) -(Nesfarsit)    


Dir. Cristian Nemescu, Romania, 2007, 155 mins, English/ Romanian/ Spanish/Italian with subtitles

Cast: Armand Assante, Razvan Vasilescu, Ion Sapdaru, Maria Dinulescu

Review by Carol Allen

You might well think that at some two and a half hours, the bit in brackets refers to the length of the film. But it has a far more poignant explanation. In August 2006 27 year old Nemescu and his sound editor Andrei Toncu were killed in a road accident on their way home from editing the film. Nemascu had made several highly praised short films. This is the untouched cut of his feature film debut, as it was left, when he died so tragically young.

He would almost certainly have tightened it up a bit, as this intriguing and unusual film does tend to meander somewhat.The story, set in 1999 and based on and expanded from a true life incident, concerns a detachment of American soldiers transporting a top secret radar system through Romania for use against the Serbian bombings of Kosovo. Though they have permission from the Romanian government, they do not have the usual legal customs documents and when they get to the village of Capaltina, the local station master Doiaru (Vasilecu) uses that fact to bring the train to a grinding halt and the Americans are stranded.

This has some of the elements of a communist era comedy of bureaucracy, as the buck is passed from one uncaring official in Bucharest to another, while in Capaltina Doiaru sticks stubbornly to his guns in the face of entreaties from the frustrated American in charge Captain Jones (Assante). But this is new capitalist Romania. Doiaru, who has the local police in his pocket, is creaming off part of every load that goes through his station in his own version of private enterprise. The workers in the local factory, which Dioaru is hoping to buy at a low price, are striking for decent wages. The Mayor (Sapdaru) sees this as an opportunity to attract publicity and much needed investment to the village and lays on a couple of lavish parties to entertain the Americans as they wait, while the local girls see it as a chance to nab themselves American husbands and a new life in the West. The only one who gets close is Dioaru's rebellious and pretty daughter Monica (Dinulescu), who enjoys a romantic liaison with Jones's young aide David (Jamie Elman), which literally puts the lights out all over Bucharest.

While all this is quirkily amusing - one of the highlights of the village party is a Romanian Elvis Presley impersonator - there is a darker, more political side to the story, which evokes some sympathy for the corrupt and bullying Doiaru, as we discover in flashbacks to World War II, when he was a small boy, that he nurses a deep resentment against the Americans for failing to arrive in time to rescue him and his parents from the Nazis and then the Communists. And when Jones gets drawn into the community's rebellion against Dioaru but fails to follow through on his promise, the Romanians are once again tragically let down by America. As an ironic postscript we learn that their cargo got to its destination two hours after the cease fire was declared, too late to be of any assistance to the Kosovans.

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