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August 27 - August 28

Aurora by Cristi Puiu

Saturday August 27 at 7pm
ADDITIONAL SCREENING JUST ADDED: Thursday September 1 at 7pm


Directed by Cristi Puiu. With Cristi Puiu, Clara Voda, Catrinel Dumitrescu
Romania/France/Switzerland/Germany 2010, 35mm, color, 181 min. Romanian with English subtitles

Following his spellbinding Romanian hospital odyssey The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Aurora is Cristi Puiu's second film in his planned series Six Stories from the Outskirts of Bucharest. Here, the tightly-wound coldness of middle-aged metallurgical engineer Viorel – played by Puiu himself with inscrutable intensity – slowly metastasizes into a discreet, inaccessible unraveling. As if happening upon ominous events already in progress, the cautiously voyeuristic camera hangs back in hallways, impartially pivots between glimpses into rooms, or eerily stalks from a safe distance. It is witness to Viorel's exquisitely specific and prolonged private moments, disturbing half-comprehensible confrontations, suspicious transactions and humorously banal episodes – the plot relevance of which may remain unclear to the end.

Puiu parses out character motivation and narrative structure with such a meditatively and addictively paced precision that they appear to barely exist. Expanding the "full immersion" technique of filmmakers like Frederick Wiseman and Chantal Akerman, Puiu instigates a profound level of audience investment and even an implication in Viorel's transgressions with a bizarrely intimate realism. Drama is not underscored by soundtrack cues, zooms or reaction shots; rather it is fragmented or disembodied in cries and thumps from the floor above, mirrored in abusive arguments in Viorel's periphery, and culled from background details like his eternally half-renovated apartment. This obfuscated vision outlines Viorel's alienated, marginal position in the world, and above all, replicates the faultiness of a human perspective. "You seem to think you understand," he states to a character at one point. "You seem to think you follow what I'm saying. And that scares me. I don't know if you understand." Rather than take on an authoritative omniscience, Puiu activates a dynamic democracy between filmmaker, character and the viewer who must vigilantly negotiate the frightening waters of speculation, unpredictability and delay. Fortunately, the director remains only at the dawn of what will no doubt endure as a truly transcendent cinematic cycle. – Brittany Gravely

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