Cannes 2016. Friday, the 13th, auspicious times for Cristi Puiu: ”Sieranevada”, eulogistic reviews
by Magda Mihăilescu
Long live the superstitions! I must say that Friday, the 13th is a lucky day for me. And today is no exception; I was sure I would read good reviews about Cristi Puiu`s feature film. And so I did. The long waited verdict of the team of international critics that rates the films in ”Screen Daily” is out. As far as we are concerned, with two exceptions, the film received four little stars and three (out of five), which means excellent and good. I`m glad that Michel Ciment from the Positif magazine appreciated Sieranevada. His opinion as the editor of the most prestigious (I believe) film magazine nowadays, “Positif”, certainly counts. The average review score: 3. We can have a clear idea if we compare it to the 2.1 received by one of the hopes that France has, Rester vertical, directed by Alain Guiraudie. But let`s take the reviews one by one: “a bleak symphony of movements which is pure virtuosity, a domestic ballet while waiting for a priest” says Mathieu Macheret in “Le Monde” about our first film in the competition, signed by Cristi Puiu, “a crucial figure of the new Romanian cinema. At first glance, Sieranevada perfectly fits the identifiable common ground of the Romanian cinema: long shots, Homeric conversations which are on the verge of the absurd, a prosaic approach that doesn`t want to embellish the dullness of the setting. But the film is not only that. What obsesses Puiu`s cinema is the re-transcription of a time that is almost real, where the story flows away unceasingly, which gives it the value of a slow revelation.” The well-known Israeli critic of a Romanian origin, is not shy in anticipating a success that he doesn`t call by the name (is it superstition?), but which is easy to guess: “Three hours long, almost entirely shot in one cluttered, old-fashioned flat, family and friends celebrating the memorial of the recently departed pater familias -everything that should scare an average audience away. No wonder so many partners had to join forces before the film could reach the screen. That all these partners could end up sharing one of Cannes’ main trophies, possibly even the top one, would only be their well-deserved reward for taking the plunge.”
Eric Neuhoff, who is very familiar with the Romanian literature as well, is very enthusiast about the film, in “Le Figaro”: “Cristi Puiu won`t hold still, to take a breath. His words just pour out. At the beginning it`s pretty difficult to get to find out who`s who, but little by little, the pieces of this puzzle fit into their places. The film is long, it`s a 3 hours film, but it`s this very length that is part of the interest quota. The wine untangles the tongues. it`s time for some summing-ups. Just as in Renoir`s works, all of them are right in their way…It`s simply a film filled with truth, that starts us thinking.”
Boy van Hoeij who, right after the screening, told me it`s great, also says that “the viewers will feel rewarded after watching Sieranevada, another unique film signed by Cristi Puiu”. What thrilled him the most is “the artfulness with which the author takes all of his characters through the X-ray test.”
“It`s a film that won`t let you indifferent.” is Peter Debruge`s conclusion (in the “Variety” magazine), admitting that even if it “may be ponderous going for the vast majority of moviegoers, if only because characters talk and talk and talk, but seldom ever speak the truth, while the camera never seems to be positioned in quite the right place to judge, “Sieranevada” gives audiences plenty to sink their teeth into over the hours and days to come”.
Last, but not least, Philippe Dupuy from the local newspaper „Nice Matin”, chose for the title the key question of the Puiu`s characters: „When do we eat?” „If it had been an Italian film with such a topic, it would have been a farce. No way. Sieranevada is so deadly serious, that it ends up being comic.”