I spoke this afternoon with renowned Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, whose ethical drama Graduation (a.k.a. Bacalaureat) was universally praised after screening yesterday morning. I called it “a fascinating slow-build drama about ethics, parental love, compromised values and what most of us would call soft corruption.”

I would be surprised if Graduation isn’t awarded by the Cannes jury in some major category, but expectations are often thwarted along these lines.

Graduation director Cristian Mungiu — Friday, 5.20, 2:30 pm.

We discussed the film’s view of things, which is basically how capitulating to soft corruption can seem at first like nothing but that it can slightly weaken your fibre and make you susceptible to harder forms down the road. I mentioned a story I passed along yesterday about my father having persuaded a Rutgers professor to give him a passing grade despite having failed a final exam, which was definitely a soft ethical lapse. Mungiu smiled and said “life is complicated.”

We talked about his two kids, ages 6 and 11, and the mostly older films he’s been showing them. Mungiu feels it’s better to expose them to classic silents at an early age before they become accustomed to today’s noisier, faster fare and lose the patience to absorb the artistry of Buster Keaton.

We talked about his association the Dardennes brothers, who are among the producers of Graduation. The film was also produced by Mungiu’s Mobra Films, Pascal Caucheteux and Grégoire Sorlat of Why Not Productions, Vincent Maraval of Wild Bunch, and Jean Labadie of Le Pacte.

I mentioned the enormous respect that he earned after 4 Months, 3 Weeks 2 Days and Beyond The Hills, and whether he might consider making a film with American actors, and if he’s been reluctant to do this out of concern that his vision and way of working might be diluted or compromised by this. His answer was more or less “yeah, kind of” but that it’s entirely possible that the right actors with the right attitude might be a fit. Mungiu also explained that he doesn’t do “coverage” (master shots, over-the-shoulder shots) when he shoots, and that this might be an issue should he collaborate with American producers.

Sundance Selects has will distribute Graduation in the U.S.