By Don Simpson | January 11, 2012
Director: Radu Muntean
Writers: Radu Muntean, Razvan Radulescu, Alexandru Baciu
Starring: Mimi Branescu, Maria Popistasu, Mirela Oprisor, Sasa Paul-Szel, Dragos Bucur, Victor Rebengiuc
Can there possibly be too many films about middle-aged married men in the midst of enjoying clandestine affairs with beautiful young mistresses? Well, no matter what your answer is to that question — which partially hinges upon your opinion on adultery — these films are going to keep coming. Here, for instance, we have Romania’s recent contribution to the “adultery” sub-genre of romantic dramas, Radu Muntean’s Tuesday, After Christmas.
Extramarital affairs in the United States are shunned and seem to be instant grounds for divorce; but, nonetheless, it seems like everyone is doing it. (Mind the pun.) And, in the United States, we tend to have a stereotype that most European men — especially in the Mediterranean region — enjoy the company of young mistresses. There is also a perception that this behavior is deemed acceptable throughout most of Europe. Whether or not this is an accurate portrait of European men is an entirely different story altogether…
I have never thought about how Romania would figure into this myth; but, after watching Tuesday, After Christmas, I sense that the Romanian attitude towards extramarital affairs might be on par with the United States. This makes sense, since according to their 2002 census, 86.7% of Romania’s population identified themselves as Orthodox Christian. But, alas, I digress…
Tuesday, After Christmas opens with its strongest scene — and the power of said scene is maintained in the manner it reveals that Raluca (Maria Popistasu) is Paul’s (Mimi Branescu) mistress. It seems like an eternity that Raluca and Paul converse while naked and horizontal in bed. Their conversation is incredibly mundane, and the subtlety of the revelation that Paul has a wife and child is such that it takes a while to comprehend what Raluca and Paul are actually talking about. The audience are pure voyeurs in this scenario, gazing at the two naked bodies, engulfing the characters’ apparent fondness for one another as they jockey for various positions on the bed.
The warm, mutual appreciation of the opening scene is juxtaposed brilliantly in the very next scene, as Paul shops with his wife, Adriana (Mirela Oprisor). The married couple’s emotional frigidity and detachment permeates every frame of celluloid and every word of dialogue. These characters are done faking their love for each other; they are just going through the motions, staying together for the sake of their daughter (Sasa Paul-Szel). It is not until one of the final images of the film — when Adriana passes a Christmas gift behind her back to Paul without ever turning around —- that we finally sense that the couple was ever intimately familiar with each other. But this is not a pleasant realization, it is too little too late. Until this moment, there is no pity or empathy associated with the unavoidable demise of Adriana and Paul’s relationship; but this this singular act concludes Tuesday, After Christmas with an extremely subtle yet powerful wallop.
Tuesday, After Christmas was released on DVD on the Tuesday after Christmas 2011 by Kino Lorber.