Sunday, January 10, 2016

Review: The Treasure

Image courtesy of Sundance Selects.
Corneliu Porumboiu's "The Treasure" is a modestly scaled comedy that, while often likable, is a little too slight to recommend. For those unaware of the director's work, the filmmaker - who, along with Cristi Puiu and Cristian Mungiu, is one of the most widely recognized of the Romanian New Wave - is known for his laconic style, scarce plots and long scenes of not much taking place, well, at least narratively.

His latest picture is a comedy and employs the same droll tone as his previous works - "Police, Adjective" and "12:08 East of Bucharest" - while also mixing in some commentary on modern Romania.

In the film, a man named Costi (Toma Cuzin) is approached by his neighbor Adrian (Adrian Parcarescu) with a plea for a loan to take care of some house payments. Costi, who is cash-strapped himself, apologizes and tells his neighbor that he can't afford to help him out. Although I didn't make much of it at the time, I now realize that, upon being interrupted by Adrian, Costi had been reading "Robin Hood" to his young son.

Adrian later returns with a deal for Costi. He believes his great-grandfather buried some sort of treasure in the yard of his home and he tells Costi that if he pays for a metal detector expert (Corneliu Cozmei), he can split the treasure, should they actually find anything. However, they are told that anything found that could be considered of interest to the Romanian state - in other words, historic artifacts, such as coins - must be turned over to the state or the men could risk imprisonment.

Costi agrees to Adrian's terms and the three men make their way to the home, which, unfortunately, has a massive yard and, on top of that, Cornel's (Cozmei) detector beeps over much of the yard, meaning that the treasure may or may not be under any plot of dirt in the vicinity.

Soon, Adrian's frustration with finding nothing leads to his squabbling with Cornel and much of the film's final third is sequences of the three men digging up a massive hole in the backyard of the house. These sequences are occasionally funny and even a little monotonous.

Although I wouldn't quite call it a twist, the film's finale - which occurs after Adrian and Costi find something in the backyard - involves an act that could be viewed as both foolhardy and done out of love, but it certainly highlights the absurd tone running throughout the picture.

I still prefer Porumboiu's "12:08 East of Bucharest" over "The Treasure" and, for that matter, "Police, Adjective," which is the filmmaker's most acclaimed movie, although it didn't always work for me. His latest is occasionally funny in a deadpan sort of way, but also a little slight. It feels like the subject of a short film, rather than a feature. Even if it didn't always work for me, it certainly feels of-a-piece with the rest of Porumboiu's oeuvre.

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