I respect the scheme and intent of Christi Puiu‘s Sieranevada, which I saw last night at the Salle Debussy, but I felt constantly under-nourished throughout the 173-minute length, and I’m afraid that translates into a no-go. And I’m saying that as a genuine admirer of the Romanian cinema aesthetic — austere, raw behavior as opposed to “acting”, long takes. I wasn’t miserable as I sat there, but there’s no way I’ll sit through it again. No. Fucking. Way.
Sieranevada is about a truckload of sullen, pissed-off behavior and enough indoor cigarette smoking to send an Olympic athlete into intensive care, but there’s too little beef. I heard someone mutter “frustrating” as everyone was shuffling out; the words I had in mind were “opaque” and “somewhat draining.”
Sieranevada is a smart film with a bold approach, but it’s not going to satisfy your boilerplate American arthouse audience, I can tell you. It’s no Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days and it’s no Tuesday, Before Christmas either.
What did I actually get from it? I was reminded how great it can be to not have to deal with a large family. And I learned what a difficult thing it can be to find a parking spot in Bucharest without blocking someone or parking in someone else’s space and getting into a heated, nearly violent argument with the owner.
Basic Sieranevada message (apart from the basic one about families accelerating or intensifying the aging process and draining your soul): Don’t own a car, take public transportation.
Mostly occuring in a too-small, over-stuffed apartment in Budapest, Sieranevada is a real-time capturing of a family’s memorial gathering for a recently deceased uncle. The main character is a burly, graybeard doctor named Lary (Mimi Branescu) and Laura, his shrewish, high-strung wife (Catalina Moga) who doesn’t attend in order to hit the post office before 4 pm and then buy groceries at the local Carrefour.