I`d rather be bald than a swinger: ”Love is a Story” – film review
by Magda Mihăilescu
I suppose the director Cristina Iacob intended her film to be a sparkling bulb that the viewers are invited to hang in their Christmas tree. She took it out into the world right on time, as they say (probably in marketing they use a different term), when the willingness to receive gifts, no matter what kind, is less selective. In other words, the tinsel, the fireworks, the naive articulation stumbling in clichés of the characters asked to push the story forward, who live their lives in the shadow of the fairy tale redeemed from the events of the everyday routine.
Actually, the film inspiredly starts with a sequence of establishing shots of a dreamy Braşov, viewed especially from the height of the snowed rooftops. And what can be more nostalgic, more potentially touching - in this flipping through the album - than the image of the smoking chimneys of the old houses, chimneys which are the very ones that Santa Claus enters the houses through, together with his story.. Of course, everything starts with a „Once upon a time...”
A talented and poor violinist, with the name of a saint, Sebastian, an actress with a calendar name, Aprilia; we don`t know how talented she is, but she is a bit grouchy, obviously annoyed when her thick-skinned partner, takes advantage and touches her during the shootings. It is not very professional for an aspiring actress to make a fuss over the man`s hand touching her, but the screenwriters (Cristina Iacob and Dan Chiriac) couldn`t find anything better to free the heroine, in order to let her live her story of love, pain, bitterness, unemployment, jealousy, etc.
Out of necessity accepting to play Snow White in the kitsch setting of a mall, or being a homeless Cinderella, Aprilia struggles to fight temptations, in order to be next to Sebastian, who is more flexible regarding that chapter, or more practical maybe. He`d rather make a small compromise instead of being kicked out in the street with his girl, by the landlady who is the bitchy, but also flirty type.
We got to admire Dragoș Bucur all the time, with his long hair in a tail (art obliges!), smiling deadly or shivering with cold in a room with a walls covered in sheets with musical notes. We also had the chance to watch the debutant Raluca Aprodu, a beautiful girl, the Keira Knightley type, who with a very good professional training might be capable of surprises. We got to enjoy Gabriela Popescu`s presence only for a few sequences, but what a rotten charm, what a spicy intelligence in each of the appearances of this actress who is unfortunately so little used in films. It`s a true feast to watch her. The bad guy who interferes and overturns the peaceful love story is the possessive, omnipresent and of course, all-powerful director; this character`s main merit is to have a mother with short stuffed hoopoe appearances. Besides that, if Ducu Darie accepted to play this part, it`s a matter of personal choice. And that goes for Mirela Oprișor and Mimi Brănescu, the neighboors living accross the street, which is extremely convenient for them to have a jolly good time spying on the protagonists. Their characters are not some vulgar peepers, they have a very refined approach, they go round the poor young couple in circles, they invite them to dinner with the intention of watching the film Peindre ou faire l‘amour (Arnaud și Jean-Marie Larrieu, 2005), together, which is a subtle allusion to a possible swingers story. What`s true is that the episode has nothing vulgar about it, it could have easily be taken as a playful vanity, but the neighbours` persistance - who, to crown all, have been paying the lovers` rent for a year, only to keep them close, hoping that maybe one day, who knows...it is a poor epical off the rails invention in what was supposed to be a tender love story among two young people who for the sake of art and of sympathy in sacrifice, they both cut their long hair. We leave our beautiful protagonists bald-headed.
Different from Selfie, in tone, this film (which actually had been made before the mentioned comedy), but released only at the end of this year, indicates Cristina Iacob`s wish to go in the direction of a popular cinema, still trying to find her voice.