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Another Stakeout

MOVIE REVIEW
Aurora (2010)

Aurora-cristi-puiu
Coproduction Office

Cristi Puiu famously told the Times that “There is not, not, not, not, not a Romanian new wave.” He certainly made his case with “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu,” a black comedy about Romania’s broken-down health-care system that ultimately became something miraculous. Five years later, though, his follow-up “Aurora” seems to disprove the very same point. The film plays out almost in the same fashion as Corneliu Porumboiu’s “Police, Adjective,” with long stretches of silence and staking out/stalking and then concluding at a police station.

Mr. Puiu himself plays Viorel, a lonely figure seemingly afflicted with a mild case of obsessive-compulsive disorder — among his collection are CDs, LPs and matchbox cars. He wears a wedding band while apparently single, sleeps with a married woman, lives in a dilapidated apartment that’s undergoing a seemingly interminable renovation and spends a lot of time lurking behind cars, trucks and a bus stop — so far, so Romanian new wave.

It’s not until much later that “Aurora” reveals itself as something darker and more troubling. Viorel fixes one shotgun and buys another one. He uses a comforter for target practice in his apartment. Even if you gradually begin to sympathize with him, you’re likely to change your mind after he snaps at his mild-mannered stepfather Doru (Valentin Popescu), who is in the midst of making pleasantry and sprinkling powdered sugar on a cake.

Without spoiling too much, “Aurora” heads toward but ultimately falls short of where Edward Yang’s “A Brighter Summer Day” ended up. Given that “Lazarescu” was such a towering achievement, a disappointment from Mr. Puiu was almost inevitable. But with its stationary camera and humorless script, “Aurora” is just so stylistically different from everything that made “Lazarescu” so beguiling. It seems that without the sociopolitical baggage, the Romanian new wave can be vacuous and vapid indeed. If there’s any consolation, “Aurora” comes complete with gratuitous full frontal nudity courtesy of Mr. Puiu himself, who is hot in an Anthony LaPaglia/Sergi López sort of way.

AURORA

Opens on June 29, 2011 in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Cristi Puiu; director of photography, Viorel Sergovici; edited by Ioachim Stroe; produced by Anca Puiu and Bobby Paunescu; released by the Cinema Guild (United States). In Romanian, with English subtitles. Running time: 3 hours 1 minute. This film is not rated by M.P.A.A.

WITH: Cristi Puiu (Viorel), Clara Voda (Gina), Valeria Seciu (Pusa), Luminita Gheorghiu (Mioara), Catrinel Dumitrescu (Mrs. Livinski), Gelu Colceag (Mr. Livinski) and Valentin Popescu (Stoian).

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