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“California Dreamin'” and “Tetro” on DVD

“California Dreamin'” and “Tetro” on DVD (photo)

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New waves come and new waves go, but they can also linger on in the careers of filmmakeres as they spiral out and become individuals. The Romanian New Wave that began to break only five or so years ago seems to have already dissipated — only Corneliu Porumboiu’s “Police, Adjective” has emerged in the last two years. Maybe the Romanian vibe itself was just too dire to last, or maybe the economy kneecapped the movement. Perhaps momentum was lost when one of the Wave’s most vibrant and commercially orthodox voices, Cristian Nemescu, died in a car wreck in 2006, forever 27, amidst the post-production on his first feature, “California Dreamin'” (2007), which itself has taken three arduous years to finally be made available to American viewers.

The Romanian films we’ve seen in the last five years were all made by thirtysomethings, all of them still teenagers and film-school students when Romania became a “new democracy” in 1989, operating since like so much of the Third World on the outskirts of legality, poverty and social order. Somewhat organically, then, the films have all been similar in their style and approach — state-of-the-art hypernaturalism, natural underlighting, open-ended narratives and shallow-grave comedy. The settings are more often than not paradigmatic post-Communist Bloc villages of newly capitalist predators, their lives structured around black marketeering, bitter self-indulgence, and maddened dreams of either somehow scoring big or getting the hell out.

05112010_californiadreamin2.jpgNemescu’s featurette-length “Marilena de la P7” (2006) begins as a Bucharest “Los Olvidados,” before devolving into a street kid’s coming-of-age experience with a young hooker; the filmmaker apparently had an unquenched thirst for Elvis impersonators and electrically-charged women. “California Dreamin'” is a more traditional Eastern European social farce, less formally chilly than the other Romanians, and closest in uppity attitude to Catalin Mitulescu’s “The Way I Spent the End of the World” (2006). A kind of my-sour-little-village picaresque, the story centers on a destitute town in the muddy Carpathian basin during the Kosovo war visited upon by a NATO train carrying American Marines and munitions. Naturally, opportunism and corruption keep the train from going any further, and days pass as virtually everyone involved attempts to turn the American presence to their profit.

As Nemescu’s title says, America is both the promised land and the object of socioeconomic derision (“Fuck Bill Clinton!” is the crowning moment of defiance), personified by Armand Assante as a hawk-faced, get-it-done officer faced with the utter recalcitrance and carefree self-service of the Romanian trod-upon. Razvan Vasilescu, the ubiquitous Jack Nicholson of Romanian film, is the beady-eyed catalyst for the chaos, which mixes in striking workers and ass-covering bureaucrats, but ultimately focuses on village girls looking for handsome American husbands and a one-way ticket out of Dodge. Climaxing with the carnage of a heartbreaking riot, Nemescu’s epic comedy (a winner at Cannes) leaves virtually nothing out – which is its own irony, because it’s technically an unfinished film, left dangling after its director’s untimely demise. Cynical and grim as the movie is, this is not the grueling Romania of “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” or “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” — Nemescu was a satiric entertainer, and the film embraces a broad-stroke sensibility halfway between Harold Ramis and ascetic arthouse.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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