Published Sep 09, 2009Five different directors (including Cristian Mungiu, director of the 2007 sleeper 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days) tackle five different true stories emerging from the "golden age" of Nicolae Ceausescu's final 15 years as president of Romania.
Lasting until 1989, this "golden age" was among the worst eras for the country, where citizens dealt with starvation, poverty and general Eastern European curmudgeons. These stories reflect the same dark, dry humour fitted to the title of the miserable stage of the country's development.
The Legend of the Official Visit" demonstrates the zealousness of official party visits, where townspeople obey any party directive in order to impress officials travelling through. This instance includes an alcoholic, ill-advised carousel ride from which there is no return.
The Legend of the Party Photographer" explains the only time the Scinteia (the official party newspaper) didn't reach publication in time due to a gaffe of misplaced hats in a photograph of Ceausecu with French president Giscard d'Estaing — remember, this was a time where hat placement stood for pride and Photoshop wasn't an option.
The Legend of the Greedy Policeman" focuses on a lawman that receives a prized pig as a gift but is afraid to slaughter it and alert his hungry neighbours to the presence of pork.
The Legend of the Chicken Driver" and "The Legend of the Air Sellers" both tackle the faintest hints of romance, with the former compromising his chicken truck to provide his crush with fresh eggs, and a handsome young couple forming an elaborate ruse to steal jars (yes, you read that right).
The sometimes-surreal nature of the stories may not gel with all viewers, though it's no fault of the filmmakers. Each story is given a slow, natural unfolding, gradual revealing, delighting those who look for humour in other cultures without condescension. (Mongrel Media)