NYFF 2010: Tuesday, After Christmas

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10/01/2010 5:13 PM |

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Rada Muntean’s Tuesday, After Christmas played Tuesday night and this afternoon at the 48th New York Film Festival. Lorber Films will release the film theatrically.

Many of the press conferences at this year’s NYFF have been conducted over Skype; when Rada Muntean talked to us from, I guess, Romania, there was a two and a half second delay—I know that’s how long the delay was because that’s how much time elapsed between when an audience member finishing his question about whether the writer-director had any point considered a happier ending for his adulterous love triangle, and when Muntean, projected up on the big screen, stiffled a guffaw. It was an interesting presser overall: questioners seemed, to me at least, to be projecting their own emotional (and political) biases onto the characters, which is is a testament the credible, engaging and specific detail Muntean and his cast draw out of a very familiar scenario.

We open with middle-aged Paul (Mimi Branescu) and younger, slimmer Raluca (Maria Popistasu) cutely post-coital, or possibly pre-coital, or possibly both; it becomes clear, even through their pillow talk, that she’s the dentist of Paul’s young (adorably precocious, as it happens) daughter. Paul’s wife is Adriana (Mirela Oprisor), a lawyer with foxy glasses and an aura of competence; their married life, shopping for holiday gifts and complaining about in-laws, is more obviously bland—harried, distracted, familiar not quite to the point of curt—but they still seem comfortable and happy enough around each other to talk about other, presumably less happy couples of their acquaintance.

That’s also surely down to the way Muntean shoots the film: all two dozen or so scenes are shot in single master takes, exhaustively rehearsed by the actors and for the camera, making for scenes with subtle shadings and sustained intensity (and also keeping the movie moving from encounter to encounter, an almost stress-inducing pacing that fits very well with the pre-Christmas time frame). And, yes, these scenes, particularly as things, as they must, come to a head, are rather pointedly showcases for the actors—Oprisor, in particular, whose performance becomes more commanding as her character grabs hold of her moral authority (and rejects Paul’s expectation of pity, another astute emotional beat). Muntean aligns the narrative with his guilt-stricken philanderer, following him through scenes from his marriage and affair, but these well-executed scenes are, as they’re shot and played, open-ended enough to allow for any number of responses.