Monday, February 24, 2014

Child's Pose

"Child's Pose," the new film by Romanian New Wave pioneer Calin Peter Netzer, spends much of its two-hour runtime at or near a four-star level, anchored by the tremendous performance of Luminita Gheroghiu as the well-connected, domineering Bucharest architect Cornelia Keneres (her browbeaten husband calls her "Controlia").

As the movie opens, Cornelia complains to her friend Dr. Olga Cerchez (Natasa Raab) that her thirtysomething son Barbu has remonstrated with her (quite profanely) to loosen her clutches on him. When, several scenes later, Olga plucks Cornelia out of a music recital to tell her that Barbu has killed a teenage boy in a car accident, Cornelia whips into action, driving to the precinct and attempting to use her status (and, more importantly, her cash) to influence the police, the attending physician, a venal eyewitness (Vlad Ivanov) and even the boy's grieving parents not to prosecute Barbu.

There are so many fascinating strands to the story, I was often reminded of the great Argentinian film "The Secret in Their Eyes" (2010) - the highest possible praise. "Child's Pose" works as a police procedural, a compelling character study, a portrayal of the fraught dynamic between a mother and son, and a passionately felt social critique. While the cops express some indignation at Cornelia's overt interpositions, the chief isn't above asking for her help with a building permit for some work he's doing to his house, and there's a generalized expectancy that someone of her standing can pull a few strings. Ivanov, who fully agrees with Cornelia that for the right price Barbu could as easily have been driving at 110 kmh as 140, is superb in a small part, as is Raab as the exceptionally useful Olga ("I owe you for life," Cornelia tells her). But Gheroghiu is the star of the show in what will surely be one of the best performances of the year.

"Child's Pose" can't quite sustain the same level of interest throughout, and it lacks some resonance. Still, I'd love to see it on a double bill with "The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu" (2010). That would be one wistful and sad look at what has and hasn't changed in Romania in fifty years' time.

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