This year’s Melbourne International Film Festival has a subsection devoted to new Romanian film (Romanian Wave) and there are several films that may be worth considering for two hours of your time. Boogie is the first I’ve tried and although it is technically a reasonable effort, it is hard going indeed.
Dragos Bucur is Bogdan “Boogie” Ciocazanu, a hardworking furniture manufacturer, husband to Smaranda (Anamaria Marinca) and father to Adi (Vlad Muntean). When one of his buyers can’t meet their repayments, Boogie and his family are off to stay in their hotel for free – the Neptun Resort on the Romanian coast and close to where Boogie spent summers as a youth. A chance meeting with two of his oldest friends will bring the unspoken tensions between Boogie and Smaranda to the surface.
The film takes place over one 24-hour period, beginning with a prolonged beach sequence that defines the characters of Boogie and particularly Smaranda. Although it appears that nothing much is happening, the undercurrent of discontent between the couple is sharply illustrated. This scene will also provide a template for the rest of the film – Boogie would work well as a stage play, as there are only a handful of locations but each scene allows for in-depth conversation between the characters and all the potential of its set-up to be realised.
For many viewers this will be far too demanding. Dialogue-heavy movies can often stretch the patience of their audiences, and one suspects this to be the case for Boogie. Although the building tension in several scenes (particularly those between Boogie and Smaranda) makes for a rather intense experience, the attention inevitably wanders during several others. It is the scenes with the crisis-triggering pair Iordache (Adrian Vancica) and Penescu (Mimi Branescu) that decrease Boogie’s momentum.
For two such crucial characters, Iordache and Penescu are strangely one-dimensional. Late in the film both are afforded the opportunity to become more than simply annoying and juvenile, but by that stage it may be too late. Their ‘arcs’ seem tacked on almost as afterthought, yet they should have illustrated a profound message about unrealised expectation and the dreams of youth.
Boogie would be an excellent option for fans of quiet, intense dramas that require attention and commitment, however its appeal must surely be limited. Striking performances by its two leads aside, the director lingers too long in many scenes that turn from challenging to energy-sapping, and the outcome is an experience hard to recommend.Rating: