Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Best of Netflix: California Dreamin

Rated 7.7 by IMDB users, California Dreamin is a lengthy 154 minutes.  Directed by Cristian Nemescu the Romanian-produced film is rambling and disjointed.  It is the rough cut. Nemescu, at 27 years old, was killed in a car accident with his sound engineer, Andrei Toncu, before the film could be finished. Still it won the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes.

While crude and unrefined, the film carried a number of messages at many levels.  Probably most profound are its political messages. Based on a true incident, the film tells the story of U.S. Marines transporting by train secret radar equipment across Romania to war-torn Kosovo in 1999.  A superintendent of the train station in a Romanian village stops the train, claiming the goods are undocumented and require customs papers. His true motivation is one of anger built up over the years since his childhood. His parents had owned a factory that had supplied products to the Germans in World War II. They waited in vain to be liberated by the Americans. Both died at the hands of the Russian occupiers. At a micro level this is the story of a frustrated man who for the first time is able to take his revenge out on the Americans who never came during the final days of WWII.  On a macro level it tells the frustration of a nation, who except for a deal made by Stalin and Roosevelt, could have been free instead of being enslaved by Communism and the Soviets for 45 years.
Another theme reflects the Romanian lifestyle left over from Communist rule.  The village, like many that I have visited in Eastern Europe, is run down and with few modern infrastructures. The people are divided between rich public officials and poor workers and farmers.  The pubic officials have money because of bribes and the black market. They drive cars and have other luxuries. Probably the biggest luxury is the ability to get away and go to university. The really poor barely subsist and resort to horse drawn wagons as a means of transportation. 
The village people and their girls fall in love with the American soldiers, but the station superintendent stubbornly refuses to let the train containing the Americans and their equipment depart. Finally, the American captain schemes with the mayor of the village to unite against the station superintendent.  The final scenes show factions in the community fighting in the streets with sticks and Molotov cocktails while the train carrying the Americans pulls away to the singing of California Dreamin by The Mamas and The Papas.  Viewers are left with the message that when Americans interfere trouble follows.
This film is available online from Netflix. Read a further review at http://www.screendaily.com/4032867.article 

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