12 September 2019 | dromasca
a double soap opera by Geo Saizescu
Fans of Romanian cinema and viewers who follow the movies coming from Romania have two good reasons to want to see "Iubire elena" ("Greek Love"). This was the latest film by Geo Saizescu, a film director known in Romania for a more than half a century activity that includes successful comedies that were quite popular with the local audiences, also because they were among the few such films in made in the comical genre during the communist era. The second reason is the presence in the lead role of Maia Morgenstern, one of the best theater and film actresses in Romania today, known also (but less than she deserves) internationally. Unfortunately, the film is disappointing in all respects.
"Iubire elena" is the screen adaptation of a theater play whose story unfolds in two parallel planes. A well-situated woman from southern Greece invites an art critic from Athens to offer him for sale a painting of a 19th-century woman painter with a tumultuous destiny who had destroyed most of her works. Two soap operas interleave on screen, one of which tells the life of the painter, the other is about the hesitating relationship that blossoms between the man and woman, both at the age of maturity. None of the stories is interesting, and the characters do not have enough consistency to win at any moment the audience's sympathy. It could be a film about art, it could be a feminist film, it could be a movie about love. None of these threads is followed. The two parallel stories meet only in a single moment that seems almost a parody. It is also the only comical moment in this film made by a director specialized in comedies, but unfortunately it's involuntary humor.
Nothing works cinematically. The story takes place in Greece and Italy, but the film is spoken most of the time in Romanian. Contemporary sequences resemble filmed theater, the historical ones look like a biographical documentary with actors, none of them are of good quality. Outdoor filming resembles clips of tourist advertising. The interior of the main heroine house resembles a small palace, but it does not fit to the economic status of a tourist guide who has alone raised a child that she claims being. Surprisingly, even continuity errors occur. Although the film is full of dialogues and off-screen comments, we learn close to nothing about the heroes excepting the woman interpreted by Maia Morgenstern. Her character is better served by the script and by acting, although the style of interpretation belongs to theater rather than cinema. Seeing Maia is always a delight, but even she cannot save this movie.
Geo Saizescu belonged to the group of Romanian film directors who made good or at least reasonable films under the difficult conditions of communist-era ideological control, but who after 1989 failed to create the films that their viewers were expecting."Iubire elena" is a disappointing final piece in a complicated career.