Tales from the Golden Age

4 out of 5 stars
Tales from the Golden Age

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Split, somewhat arbitrarily, into "Tales of Authority" and "Tales of Love," this six-part anthology of individual short films---based on Romanian urban legends---ranges from absurdist humor to minor-key tragedy, loosely related to the country's substantially darker cinematic output like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007). Which isn't surprising, as that film's auteur, Cristian Mungiu, wrote all of the segments here, supplying the movie with an uncommon degree of coherence for an omnibus. He also directed two of the strongest episodes (five filmmakers are credited), including the tale of a straight-arrow truck driver (Ivanov) seduced by a sultry truck-stop owner into pilfering from his cargo of chickens. His second entry involves a young student (Cavallioti) who joins an older man in a crude scheme to steal bottles for the deposits. They're both stories of low-level survival, attempts to find opportunity in a country devoid of it.

The other segments are, predictably, a mixed bag, peaking with a wry account of a tiny town's attempt to spruce up for a visit of Party officials, and bottoming out with an aimless tale of a Communist activist trying to teach literacy to remote villagers. Although several sections deal with the Ceausescu-era party apparatus, Mungiu's interest lies more in how the nation's political confusion affected the general populace. It's history told from the bottom, where what everyone thinks happened matters as much as what actually did.

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