Cristi Puiu made a name for himself at the Cannes film festival with his sophomore feature The Death of Mr Lazarescu won the prestigeous Un Certain Regard. It gave a name to the then burgeoning Romanian New Wave of the early to mid 2000s. Every country have to have their New Wave sometimes just later than others. International attention didn’t really happen till the release of The Death of Mr Lazarescu but the New Wave was born with Puiu’s debut feature Stuff And Dough.
The film gleefully plays around genre conventions which maybe be down to Puiu’s own self-professed lack of interest in cinema till later on in life which was started with Luis Buñuel’s masterpiece The Exterminating Angel. It’s part road-movie with shades of film noir thrown in and naturally a bit of black comedy thrown in for good measure. The reference points are Wages of Fear and Thieves Highway but downplayed to a naturalistic style which is common throughout all the majority of “New Wave” movements across the globe and time.
The protagonist Ovidiu (Alexandry Papadopol) agrees to deliver some contraband medicine across to Bucharest. It’s a way for him to get some quick money and enlists Vali (Dragos Bucur) who takes his new girlfriend on the way. The situation on the way becomes increasingly dangerous when a red SUV is after them. It’s a deceptively simple plot but as you would expect more meets the eye than the surface.
The film in a subtle way deals with the Romanian of the time which is basically corrupt to its core if it’s the police or gangsters which as we all know are interchangeable in the first place. It’s a film about pushing yourself to extremes to make a living and the consequences that come along with that. Ovidiu’s family has fallen on such hard times they have opened a shop in their house to make ends meet so there is a vitality to Ovidiu completing the job. However he starts having doubts about the whole thing from the beginning which just intensity in the course of the film.
Second Run who have really made their niche when it comes to interesting films to come out of Eastern Europe have made an excellent disc as you would expect. It’s firstly an English language debut on Home Video anywhere in the world. The director Cristi Puiu is interviewed for about 25 minutes about his early life, his career which naturally focuses on Stuff and Dough. His short film Cigarettes and Coffee is included which has no relation to the early Paul Thomas Anderson short of the same name or the similarly titled Jim Jarmusch short film series Coffee and Cigarettes.