March 25, 2008

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days — the critically-lauded “Romanian abortion film” that was controversially denied a chance to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film — has just passed the million-dollar mark at the American box office, reports Andrew O’Hehir of

After a strong and varied weekend kickoff to the spring indie-release season (as reported by indieWIRE), it appears that this year’s art-house film that could, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” has achieved a milestone of sorts. Admittedly, $1 million in cumulative box-office receipts sounds like nothing special; a hit Hollywood movie might earn that much in a couple of hours of nationwide release. When you’re talking about an abortion-themed thriller set in Communist-era Romania, and a film economy in which very few foreign-language releases make even half that much money, you begin to see why this is news. (“4 Months” is only playing on 44 screens in the United States — and that’s its widest distribution to date.)

At the very least, the modest success of Cristian Mungiu’s film suggests that the theatrical audience for challenging foreign-language has not entirely evaporated, or defaulted to the safety of its living-room gizmos. What I want to know now, along with everybody else involved with the “specialty” film business, is how much more money “4 Months” has generated on-demand through IFC’s cable-TV outlet. At least for the moment, IFC’s strategy of simultaneously releasing films in theaters and on cable (but not on DVD), no longer looks like a desperate rear-guard action, or like the wave of the future. It’s working right now. . . .

By the way, a reminder for those who live in or near Vancouver: the film returns to the VanCity Theatre next week.

February 8, 2008

Oh my. I knew I loved Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days when I saw it at the local film festival four months ago, and I knew I really regretted not being able to see it a second time before writing my second, longer review of the film last month for CT Movies. But now Victor Morton has seen it a second time and posted two new appraisals of it at his Rightwing Film Geek blog, and I am deeply, deeply in awe, both of the film itself and of Morton’s analysis of it. In this first, brief post, he pays specific attention to the film’s final scene, and in this second, longer post, he re-evaluates claims he had made about the film when he first saw it in September, and he offers some dazzling interpretations of the film’s visual compositions — its use of mirrors, its use of vehicles moving in opposite directions, etc. — and how they lend themselves to the movie’s moral themes. I am so, so glad this film is coming back to Vancouver in April. I can’t wait to see it again.

January 25, 2008

My review of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is now up at CT Movies. The film opens in the United States today, and this review expands on the one that I wrote three months ago when the film opened in Canada. Incidentally, it seems that this film will finally be returning to Vancouver, at the VanCity Theatre, in April.

November 16, 2007

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days — the Romanian abortion drama that won the top prize at Cannes six months ago, and is easily one of the best films of this year — may be running into some trouble, audience-wise, as it leaves the festival circuit and moves into more mainstream venues.

Jeffrey Wells, the Hollywood Elsewhere blogger who called the film a “masterpiece” a few weeks ago, says he has heard rumblings from within the Academy’s ranks that the film — which opens in the U.S. in January, during awards season — might not even be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film award:

“Some felt it was a masterpiece and others didn’t,” according to a publicist. The journalist says he heard that some complained that Cristian Mungiu’s film is “too slow” and that some “didn’t like the fetus on the floor shot.” The publicist says that “some complained about Oleg Mutu’s static camera work” as well as “some of the hand-held tracking shots.”

In related news, I was surprised today to discover that the film has already left Vancouver. It opened here two weeks ago and its first week was pretty standard — matinees, evening shows, the works — but then, in its second week, it was relegated to one screening per night at 10pm. And now, it’s gone. Yikes.

Fortunately, it seems to be playing still in Toronto and Montreal, and perhaps it’s playing in other Canadian cities as well. But I’m still a little shocked to see that it’s left my town so quickly — especially since I was planning to see it a second time before revising my review for an American outlet or two.

October 23, 2007

When 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days — Cristian Mungiu’s masterful film about a woman and her friend trying to procure an illegal abortion in 1980s Romania — won the Palme D’Or at Cannes earlier this year, a number of people wrote as though the film took some sort of implicitly pro-choice stance (“if only abortion had been legal in Romania at that time, these women would not have had to go to such lengths, or allow themselves to be exploited so badly,” that sort of thing). Catholic blogger Victor Morton, who saw the film at the Toronto film festival, didn’t see it in quite that light, but his positive appraisal was still worded somewhat cautiously:

As for the portrayal of abortion. Yes, this movie is in a very broad sense *about* the quest for an illegal abortion. Abortion as either a moral matter or a political issue simply does not appear, on either side. The decision to abort was made before the movie begins, and the abortion and disposing of the dead baby are simply tasks in a laundry list and, unlike in VERA DRAKE, nobody says abortion is wrong. But there is a shot of the result of the abortion that doesn’t last long but is as in-you-face and bloody as any pro-life group poster (this being the 5th month, it’s an undeniably human form and it’s far more explicit than the original ALFIE. Squeamish: Consider this your warning.) On balance, I would put it this way: 4 MONTHS is a movie where nobody says word of pro-choice propaganda and which shows an aborted corpse dead on the floor. That’s a net plus.

But now comes Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere — not the most right-wing of bloggers — who calls the film an “absolute” “masterpiece” and “the most persuasive anti-abortion argument in any form I’ve ever heard, seen or read.” Wow! He then adds:

I did what I could to assist two former girlfriends in getting two abortions — one in the mid ’70s, the other ten years later — so I know a little bit about what it feels like peripherally (and a little bit psychologically), but I’ve never felt so immersed in the hard particulars of grappling with the reality of getting an abortion until catching this film last Friday night. I didn’t just feel moved and shaken — I felt changed after it was over.

I saw this film at the Vancouver film festival, and will be reviewing it soon — it doesn’t open in the States until January, but it opens in Canada November 2 — so I knew the film was good. But I hadn’t expected to see it get reactions like this! This makes me all the more eager to see the film again, to encourage other people to see it, and to see what sort of dialogue emerges around this film.

UPDATE: Jeffrey Wells has now posted a follow-up, asserting that most pro-lifers will “avoid this film in droves” because they don’t like subtitles and “are largely xenophobic when it comes to sampling foreign cultures and their films.” Let’s hope he’s wrong — and let’s hope that, if he is wrong, pro-lifers won’t try to turn the film into a propaganda tool, but will engage with it as art.

September 28, 2016


Tomorrow marks the beginning of the 35th Vancouver International Film Festival (September 29 – October 14). I’ve been attending every year since 1994, when I was an editor at one of the UBC student papers, so this will be my 23rd year at VIFF.


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