Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mother's Love

Child's Pose (2013) - Netzer
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Winner of Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and Romania's official entry for Best Foreign Language Film for this year's Oscar, Calin Peter Netzer's Child's Pose is a riveting family drama spiked with some sharp social commentary that is inherent in the Romanian New Wave. Veteran Romanian actress Luminita Gheorghiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, The Death of Mr. Lazarescue) gives a remarkable performance as Neli (Cornelia), a well-connected Romanian upper-class professional whose resolve as a mother of a deadbeat son, Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache) gets tested.

The film opens with Neli's extravagant birthday dinner with many of important government officials attending. She tells her sister that Barbu is not only not showing up for the party, but told her to 'go suck a cock,' and that he wishes that the old generation would die off soon. Her sister tells her that he is too spoiled and she shouldn't pester him all the time. From the beginning, it is obvious that this mother-son relationship is strained beyond repair. Then a few days later, she gets the news that Barbu has run over and killed a child from a poor neighborhood and is in police custody. From then on, Neli uses every connection and power to get Barbu out of jail.

Neli is not an one dimensional caricature of a high society woman who is completely oblivious about class differences. But nonetheless, she remains a concerned mother to a spoiled son, who, now in his thirties, didn't turn out the way she wanted. Even with all the insults Barbu throws at her, she would stick by him and help him get through the hard times, even if that means begging the parents of the dead child for forgiveness in place of him.

Unlike recent class conscious satires like Lucrecia Martel's Headless Woman, Lou Ye's Mystery and even Bong Joon-ho's populist cinema Mother, Child's Pose is much more subtle and down to earth and much less melodramatic. In a typical Romanian New Wave fashion, Netzer favors unhurried, almost documentary like procedural to advance the story. Neli finds the local police difficult to deal with at first, but easily corruptible. Just as the witness of the crime, played here once again at his sleaziest by Vlad Ivanov (the memorable abortion doctor in 4 Months, 3 Days, 2 Days) can change his statement at the right price. With beautifully nuanced script by long time Netzer collaborator Razvan Radulescu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu), Child's Pose examines mother's obsessive love in the context of social dynamics in modern day Romania.

Child's Pose has a two week exclusive engagement at Film Forum in NYC starting 2/19. It opens in LA on 2/21 and the national roll out will follow.

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