Night Train (2009 DTV)

US, Germany, Romania / 91 minutes / color / A-Mark, Rifkin/Eberts, FilmTiger Dir & Scr: M. Brian King Pr: Brian Etting, Wendy Park, Bruce McNall, Steve Markoff, Arnold Rifkin, Christopher Eberts, Michael Philip Cine: Christopher Popp Cast: Danny Glover, Leelee Sobieski, Steve Zahn, Matthias Schweighoefer, Geoff Bell, Constantine Gregory, Richard O’Brien, Takatsuna Mukai, Togo Igawa, Jo Marr.

A highly effective black comedy, done with lashings of CGI (the exteriors seem to be almost entirely CGI; the interiors often seem, especially in the earlier parts of the movie, to be done as CGI-enhanced live action). There are also plenty of hat-tips, via the character names, to earlier noir/crime movies—the names Mr. Gutman and Mr. Cairo obviously referring to The MALTESE FALCON (1941) and Mrs. Froy to The Lady Vanishes (1938)—although besides these hat-tips there aren’t really any further resemblances (except, perhaps, in that the plot role of this movie’s MacGuffin could be compared to that of the Maltese Falcon). Other movie influences might seem to be Hellraiser (1987), Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and even, in terms of visual style, The Polar Express (2004).

Night Train - CGI fest (do as opener, query)

A movie of great visual style.

Senior guard Miles (Glover; “I know everything about this train except its favorite color”) and his far junior colleague Frankie (Schweighoefer) run a night train called Continue reading

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Om în Loden, Un (1978)

vt A Man in a Raincoat; vt The Man in the Overcoat

Romania / 80 minutes / color / Romániafilm, Casei de Filma Unu Dir: Nicolae Mãrgineanu Pr: Constantin Stoiciu Scr: Nicolae Mãrgineanu, Haralamb Zinca Story: Moartea Vine pe Banda de Magnetofon (1967) by Haralamb Zinca Cine: Tarko Gabor Cast: Victor Rebengiuc, Ovidiu Iuliu Moldovan, Constantin Diplan, George Constantin, Mircea Albulescu, Cazimir Tanase, Sanda Toma, Draga Olteanu Matei, Florina Luican, Andrei Finti, Silviu Stanculescu, Elena Sereda, Gheorghe Visu.

Petrologist Danut “Dan” Stamatiad (Rebengiuc) is being tormented by nightmares that culminate in him waking to the noise of a man’s sepulchral laughter. When he starts to receive threatening letters and phonecalls he initially suspects Boeriù (uncredited), a rival colleague at the institute where he works, but Boeriù proves to have been on a field trip. The institute’s director (Stanculescu) insists Dan go to the Securitate (cops), whose suspicions initially focus on Dan’s colleague Costi Aman (Constantin), whose behavior is certainly suspicious enough and who, despite superficial camaraderie, is believed to harbor some ill will toward Dan over a professional error of Aman’s that Dan corrected.

The Securitate’s Major Lucian (Moldovan) and Lt. Frunza (Diplan) step up their investigations when Dan’s sister Angela Prisacaru (Toma) is shot and seriously wounded. By now the mystery caller is identifying himself as Traian Feraru whom, 34 years ago, Dan shopped to the law as a member of the murderous pro-Nazi Iron Guard, and who died in a confrontation with the cops. Traian Feraru was, however, survived by his brother Anghel (Tanase), who, posing as mental patient Ernest Gramoste, is now on the loose and seeking revenge. Through blackmail and persuasion he has enlisted to his scheme Dan’s colleague Bogdan Negreanu (Finti), the institute’s secretary Ms. Niculescu (Sereda), Aman’s supposed mistress Mioara Cotmeanu (Luican) and even the son, Nelu Matu (Visu), of Dan’s cleaning lady . . .

Although the movie shows its age (and could be accused of being a commercial for Ceaucescu’s rightly loathed Securitate), there’s a lot here to like. The credits sequence makes dramatic use of foreshortening and acoustics as it creates a surreally sinister effect from nothing more than a man descending a spiral staircase. At about the movie’s midpoint, Dan wakes in the early hours to find his electricity has been cut off and his small apartment filled with the sound of beating wings; as he explores by the uncertain illumination of his shakily held flashlight, the tension becomes remarkable—and his discovery that the intruder is a large owl becomes even creepier because of the flickering light. Later on, there’s a clever piece of business with identical twins on a train; Lucian can’t initially understand why one man seems to be in two places at once. And so on. These fine sequences are ably accompanied by Cornel Taranu’s restrained score.

On Amazon.com: A Man in a Raincoat (Un Om in Loden)

Înapoi în Cartier (2007)

vt Back to the Neighborhood

Romania / 93 minutes / color / Page, Agressione, Ax Perpetuum Impex, Intermarom Dir: Gelu Radu Pr: Mody Levente, Cristian Omät, Horia Radu, Gelu Radu Scr: Horia Radu, Gelu Radu Cine: Cristian Omät Cast: Mody Levente, Horia Radu, Florin Matingo, Florin Runcan, Monica Hajdu, Mircea-Gabriel Ciolpan, Ioana Radu, Lucescu Matingo, Pamela Veliciu.

This is the sequel to Cartier (2001; vt Neighborhood), a movie that I haven’t seen but will add here if ever I do get the opportunity to see it; apparently the two movies are fairly similar, both being set in Romania’s second city of Cluf-Napoca and sharing fairly incessant profanity and obscenity, plus amazingly low production standards—to the extent that in this one all the scenes involving cash were reportedly shot first, so that the cash could be freed up to pay ongoing production costs.

The only person to escape alive from a drug-gang massacre five years ago was a psychopathic crook called Brazilianu/The Brazilian (Florin Matingo), who did so only at the expense of castration by one of his adversaries. Another of those adversaries, Moşu (Levente), arrived late, missed the carnage, and slipped away unnoticed by the cops. Since then Moşu has gone straight.

Having now returned to the neighborhood, Moşu is asked for help one day by the cop who used to hound him, Gota (Runcan). A while ago Gota’s daughter Diana was kidnapped; the cops are sure she’s being held somewhere in the neighborhood but otherwise are stymied; could Moşu help out? Seizing upon Brazilianu’s uneducated love for what he imagines are priceless antiquities, Moşu enlists the aid of crooked dealer Hensi (Horia Radu), who agrees to help immediately he hears Brazilianu possesses the valuable Athena medallion and, ignorant of its true worth, is ripe for the fleecing . . .

Amid some extraordinarily badly choreographed fights the plot lurches confusingly along, not helped by its being told non-chronologically. (In fact, the mentally reassembled chronology seems not to work, with several days’ or weeks’ worth of action having taken place in what we’re told was just the previous day.) Most of the flashbacks are highly stylized, with dominant music tracks and even some dancing and performance art; they seem like clumsy first drafts of music videos. Some of the acting’s fine but some is dire. Even so, there’s enough to sustain the interest, in a sickly fascinated sort of way, until the end.

Inapoi in Cartier (2007) - The Brazilian (Florin Matingo) suffers in prison

Brazilianu/The Brazilian (Matingo) languishes in prison; it’s part of the ethos of this movie that prison rape is regarded as hilarious.

On Amazon.com: Inapoi in cartier