Wednesday, January 21, 2009

California Dreamin'

When a car crash claimed the life of director Cristian Nemescu six months into the editing of California Dreamin' he left behind a 155-minute film that was technically unfinished, but that, to judge from the results (and the final product comes down to us more or less as he left it at his death) feels fully formed. In competition at Cannes' Un Certain Regard in 2007, the sentimental favorite took home the prize, with Nemescu joining countrymen Cristi Puiu who had received the same honor for The Death of Mr. Lazarescu in 2005 and Cristian Mungiu whose 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days won the Palme d'Or alongside Dreamin'. Although the premature death of its director no doubt swayed votes in favor of Nemescu's film, the picture more than stands on its own merits. A dark satire of provincial opportunism and American imperialism that refuses to condemn its characters even as it shows them up in all their small-minded venality, Dreamin' proves to be a richly satisfying filmgoing experience. Catch it while you can.

California Dreamin' opens this Friday at New York's IFC Center. Click here for times. Click here to read my review at Slant Magazine.

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