TUESDAY, AFTER CHRISTMAS (Radu Muntean, 2010)

In the finest scene in Romanian filmmaker Radu Muntean’s depressing, cliché-ridden adultery drama, Marți, după Crăciun, a middle-aged couple come apart, perhaps irrevocably. Having decided to choose mistress over wife, Paul tells Adriana, “I’ve met someone, and we’re in love.” His casual manner salts Adriana’s wound at the point of its infliction. At their kitchen sink, between the ten-year marrieds are stacks of dishes in the open cabinet above the sink. At Adriana’s insistence, Paul discloses the other woman’s identity: their 9-year-old daughter Mara’s 26-year-old dentist. Adriana, initially civilized and constrained, pronounces, almost parentally, her great disappointment in Paul; but in their living room, she “loses it” and begins ferociously pummeling him. He struggles to hold her down on the couch. We may wonder whether Paul really did choose Raluca or, perhaps unconsciously, by his confession of adultery, left it to Adriana to make “the choice” for them both. Paul packs his things and moves out—just in time for Christmas.
     All this is creepier yet; Paul and Adriana are played by real-life couple Mimi Brănescu and Mirela Oprişor (best actor, best actress, Gijón).
     This film of confident long takes is better at providing acting opportunities for its cast than at creating expressive mise-en-scène. Above, I describe a wonderful shot of the imminently estranged couple, their backs toward us at the sink, stacked dishes—a likely symbol of their low-passion marriage—dividing them. Regrettably, most of this seemingly endless film is visually atrocious, its use of color—soft, silly color—a meaningless component and continual eyesore. Here, too, a single shot uses color as arresting punctuation: in the background and the middle of the frame, in Raluca’s living room, the dangling red Christmas sock rupturing the frame. Otherwise, Muntean’s ho-hummer is a dumb-bummer.

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