Monday, 19 October 2009

London Film Festival: Tales From The Golden Age

On Saturday night The Incredible Suit and Mrs The Incredible Suit ventured into London’s Leicester Square, which is just about the last place on Earth any sane human being would want to be on a Saturday night. Despite it being October, and therefore cold enough to freeze the nethers off a Balrog, the place was still teeming with tourists at 9pm. Why? Nothing touristy is going on there, unless you count sitting outside an overpriced restaurant wearing so many layers that you can only waggle your fingertips, or getting a “hilarious” caricature done of yourself by someone who has apparently also done them for Tom Cruise, Posh Spice and Barack Obama, and that’s why you’d need to take out a mortgage to pay for it.

But I digress. Obviously we were there for the London Film Festival, specifically a screening of Tales From The Golden Age, or Amintiri Din Epoca De Aur as the Romanians insist on calling it, apparently because it was them what made it.

Passing the red carpet (which, disappointingly, didn’t seem to have been laid for us) and the crowd of idiots who had amassed to bark like seals at any old berk wandering down it whether they were famous or not, we located the plebeians’ entrance and settled down for the movie. Tales From The Golden Age is a portmanteau film of five stories set in 1980s Romania – the laughingly named (by dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu’s propaganda machine) ‘Golden Age’ of the title. Each vignette is about a microcosm of life under Ceauşescu, and each a touching personal story representative of thousands struggling to get through a restrictive and repressive dictatorship with humour and self-respect.

The first story - set in a small town preparing for a state visit which nobody is even sure will happen, but about which everybody is on edge, especially with all the petty specifics required to please the great leader – is the most enjoyable. Funny and warm, it sets the scene for a light-hearted but simultaneously serious film which, sadly, never transpires.

The second story isn’t bad; a peek into the spin employed by the Romanian press to make Ceauşescu look good at all times. Essentially a Romanian version of The Thick Of It, but with 99% less profanity. From then on though, each story seems to get longer and less interesting, with only a butane-filled exploding pig providing a highlight in the fourth tale.

It’s fair to say Tales From The Golden Age is the best Romanian film The Incredible Suit has ever seen, but its competition is limited. In fact there is no competition. So I’d have to say that although it brought to light the challenges faced by the people of that time, and certainly educated me in the way they faced those challenges with their sense of humour and pride intact, it might have been improved by giving the first story 90 minutes of its own and losing the latter, less golden tales.

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