Film Review: Uppercase Print

Mugur Călinescu

Of all the directors from the Romanian new wave who have made an impression on international cinema, it is perhaps Radu Jude who has been the most confrontational. And he seems to be getting angrier with age. With his latest, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, he tackles a modern social problem head on. However, last year he trained his lens on Romania’s Communist history. In Uppercase Print, he revels in the minimalism, social realism and dark humour which characterises one of the most interesting twenty-first century film movements.

In 1981, chalk slogans started appearing on walls of public spaces in the Romanian city of Botoşani. Written in uppercase print, they demanded the greater freedoms experienced by some of their neighbours. The authorities sprang into action and began a campaign to track down the perpetrator(s). Despite taking over 80,000 handwriting samples from (almost all) the population, they apprehended the culprit, Mugur Călinescu (Serban Lazarovici), by chance. The Securitate then began to persecute the then schoolboy.

Uppercase Print takes a highly unusual approach to telling the story of one persecution amongst many. Jude uses Gianina Cărbunariu’s stage play as the basis for his film, but contrasts the material with Romanian television footage from the Ceaușescu era. Using the propaganda and often cloyingly light-hearted entertainment as a counterpart to the repressive regime. It takes some getting used to but Uppercase Print is a unique drama about the dangers of authoritarianism.

Uppercase Print opens at Metrograph, NYC on 10 November and Laemmle Royal, LA on 19 November.

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