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April 30, 2017

Graduation (2017)
Director: Cristian Mungiu
Actors: Adrian Titieni, Maria Dragus, Lia Bugnar

bacalaureat_mungiu.jpeg (350×200)

Synopsis: Middle-age doctor, Romeo (Adrian Titieni), finds himself drawn into a murk of corruption when his daughter might potentially fail her all-important school exams because of an assault.

Review: Cristian Mungiu is unquestionably a master dramatist and master commander of cinematic grammar, and Graduation – another of his verité descents into one person’s unfurling nightmare – is one of the most formally accomplished films of recent years.

If anything though, Graduation feels too calibrated. It wears its metaphoric conceits and subliminal social commentary a little too readily, a little too prescriptively. Perhaps not coincidental considering the film was produced by the Dardennes, but Graduation reminded me most of the Dardennes’ most unsatisfying film of recent times, Le fils. There, like here, the camera hugs the forlorn, hulking frame of its increasingly unreliable narrative conduit (Adrian Titieni has more than a passing resemblance to Dardennes’ regular and Le fils lead, Olivier Gourmet). There is an unsubtlety in Mungiu’s obvious intent to build a morality play around this man’s immersion and loss of self amid the quagmire of corrupt Romanian society, and as a very consciously ‘arthouse’ exercise in middle-class guilt, Mungiu was clearly playing into the lineage of two of the finest films of the millenium so far in Michael Haneke’s Hidden and Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman.

Away from Mungiu’s didacticism, it’s impossible not to appreciate his skill as a filmmaker. Each sequence is crafted visually and aurally to take you into the immediacy of the story, and when Mungiu gets his dramaturgical ingredients just right, as in Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days, he is a filmmaker of the highest order. (April 2017)

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