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Review: Of Snails and Men

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Is this the eagerly awaited Romanian domestic hit?

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- Tudor Giurgiu's second feature brings comedy to a film industry dominated by internationally awarded but domestically unpopular dramas. Make way for the 1990s and for strange job-saving solutions!

Review: Of Snails and Men

Included in the Romanian Days sidebar at the Transylvania International Film Festival (TIFF 2012), Tudor Giurgiu's Of Snails and Men [+see also:
trailer
film focus
interview: Tudor Giurgiu
film profile
]
is already proving very popular among the festival's guests and cinemagoers. Inspired by true events covered by the Romanian press at the beginning of the 1990s, the comedy explores the local talent for improvisation.

Among the bleak Romanian dramas that are usually selected and awarded at film festivals all over the world but practically ignored when domestically released, Of Snails and Men is a much-needed change, as Romanian cinema lacks comedies that can appeal to cinemagoers less interested in auteur films who simply want to relax in front of the big screen.

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The story is simple: in a small town, the state-owned car factory, which employs almost all the local men, is about to be privatized. What the workers do not know is that their manager (Dorel Visan) plans to make money from the deal and approaches two French businessmen, father and son (played by father and son actors Jean-François and Robinson Stévenin), who are interested in buying the factory but intend to convert it into a snail cannery. There is not much space in their plan for the thousands of workers, but the only one who struggles to save the factory is the union leader (Andi Vasluianu). His crazy solution scares his fellow workers somewhat, as it involves them selling their sperm to an American sperm bank...

The screenplay, written by Ionut Teianu, struggles between forgettable one-liners and moments that might make a better impression as short films, but Of Snails... has a lot of energy that could keep audiences entertained. Among snails, cars and bearded workers, Monica Barladeanu (Francesca [+see also:
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, Maternity Blues [+see also:
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, Diaz [+see also:
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interview: Daniele Vicari
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) is the eye-candy presence as the manager's secretary and also the lover of the (married) union leader. Her ambitions are too big for the small town, which feels like a prison to her, so she is quite interested in the attention she receives from the young French businessman...

But the star of the colourfull show is Dorel Visan, who is still one of Romania's most popular actors, even following a few quite poorly received films in recent years. Very much at ease as the greedy manager who wants to finance his retirement with a death blow to the state-owned factory, Visan is funny and believable. His best moment (and perhaps the entire film's) is without doubt a conversation (in French) with the future owners of the factory, a sequence that will be partly lost in translation if Of Snails and Men is released in other territories.

Produced by Libra Film and Agat Film (France), the project received a grant from the National Film Center in 2011. Of Snails and Men will be domestically released on September 14, through Libra's distribution arm, Independenta Film. At TIFF, it is competing for the awards of the Romanian Days sidebar, among better known productions such as Radu Jude's Everybody in Our Family [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Radu Jude
film profile
]
, Adrian Sitaru's Best Intentions [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
and Anca Damian's Crulic - The Path to Beyond [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Anca Damian
film profile
]
. Maybe Giurgiu's film has no chance for the awards but it definitely is a success at TIFF: it tops the popularity list, according to cinemagoers' votes.

photogallery

international title: Of Snails and Men
original title: Despre Oameni si Melci
country: Romania, France
sales agent: Elle Driver
year: 2012
directed by: Tudor Giurgiu
screenplay: Ionut Teianu
cast: Dorel Visan, Jean-François Stévenin, Robinson Stévenin, Andi Vasluianu, Monica Bârlădeanu

main awards/selection

Warsaw Film Festival 2012 
Film Society of Lincoln Center 2012 
Festival Premiers Plans D'Angers 2012 
Göteborg International Film Festival 2012 
Mediterranean Film Festival of Montpellier 2013 
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