The Death of Mr. Lazarescu director Cristi Puiu's debut is ambitious beyond its means. All handheld long takes with crisp colors and sharp edges, Stuff and Dough initially seems a straightforward realist expose of the frustrated expectations of Romania's first post-Soviet generation. Budding capitalist Ovidiu (Alexandru Papadopol) accepts a shady delivery job to finance his business. A buddy and his girlfriend come for the ride, and their dashboard discussions alternately reveal disenchantment, ambition and sexism. The early sentiment is of Romania's youth driving into new territory without completely understanding where it's coming from.
That's before the narrative jolt comes–in the form of a big red SUV and its thuggish occupants–and Stuff and Dough swerves adroitly into the chase movie lane. The ensuing tension–that terrifying urge to look back–recalls the genre's most elemental entry, Spielberg's Duel, but Puiu's conclusion is more quizzical than cathartic. Beyond its specifically Romanian resonances, Stuff and Dough portrays everyday characters reacting to a kind of primal and irrepressible violence (just imagine what Freud would say about that red SUV).
April 23-May 6 at Film Forum