The newest documentary by Alexandru Solomon
reminds us more of a culinary show (the Romanian version translates into an all-tempting "secret recipe") than of a half artistic/halfjournalistic endeavor. However, Kapitalism... is only tangentially involved with the stomach (some of the "delicacies" seen on screen will definitely make you want to fast for a while). Its main concern is with the mind: "Imagine Ceauşescu coming back 20 years after he was executed and realizing that Romanian Capitalism was built by his very own old acolytes...." When Solomon first told us about his recent encounter with the likes of Romanian moguls Ioan Niculae, Dinu Patriciu or Dan Voiculescu who, apparently, were ready to share with him the secrets behind their post 1989 fortunes...well...to say I considered his venture highly improbable would be an understatement. I was pretty sure it was going to be a lukewarm analysis of the aforementioned people and their incredible, Forbes-list-worthy fortunes - everything handled, of course, with kid gloves. Nothing could have been further from the truth. For I had forgotten that the always subtle Solomon was already "responsible," among others, for two razorsharp studies of two of the darkest aspects of the communist era - The Great Communist Bank Robbery
(2004), about the infamous 1959 hold-up turned by the com-munists into a propaganda coup, and Cold Waves
(2007), "the war" between Radio Free Europe and the state terror during the Cold War and after. And that, no matter how strong les nouveaux riches would fight, Alexandru would manage, without giving up his delicacy (or his deontology, for that matter - people tend to forget that a great documentary requires objectivity, taking Michael Moore's dogmatism for the norm), to shed some light on two decades of chaotic capitalism. The result, Kapitalism, Our Improved Formula
, a perfectly seasoned assortment of interviews, archive images, stop-motion animation and installations, is both outrageous and dramatic, ridiculous and funny. It is outrageous because the attitude is outrageous - Dinu Patriciu, who borrowed money from the state in order to buy a refinery and who later sold it without paying back his debts, exemplifies his views on Romanian capitalism with drawings of sharks and octopuses (I wonder which he is), while Dan Voiculescu, a media magnate known (but unproved) for his informative notes to the Securitate, mocks the Canadian specialists who weren't able to provide evidence that he absconded with Ceausescu's secret accounts. It is dramatic because the reality is dramatic - Ioan Niculae, who owns about three counties, is innocently batting his eyelids when asked about his Securitate past ("We were the ones with the know-how. What were we supposed to do? Crawl up and die?"). It is ridiculous because the characters are ridiculous (in a surrealist intervention, Dan Diaconescu, another media magnate, says that had Ceauşescu agreed to appear on talk shows, he would have survived while, in another scene, Gigi Becali, the sheep owner turned politician, roams aimlessly along the corridors of the European Parliament). And, finally, it is funny because it has to be. Otherwise, after 80 minutes of such a well-seasoned mixture of bread (less) and circus (more), we, the view-ers, would not be able to go on living.