Drive On


Fantastic film worth every minute of its nearly three-hour length. Director Radu Jude, whose 2021 feature Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn was so delicious a send-up of woke culture Romanian-style, has made the Film of the Year, if not the last hundred years (give or take a couple, ok). Scabrous, profane, bleak, and blackly hilarious satire lovingly hand-rolled by Rude into one heck of a thrill ride to nowheresville that utilizes a lot of zany jump cuts and cut-ups a la Godard, herky-jerky hand-held camerawork, and random quotations from all sorts of sources poetic and otherwise to continuously disrupt the narrative.

Ilinca Manolache as put-upon, tough as nails gum-chewing taxi driver/PA to a film company named Angela Raducana (and her male social media alter ego Bobita, a bald-headed bearded Andrew Tate-like toxic douchebag with furry eyebrows digitally achieved through her iPhone app ) is a real Force of Nature and should win every best actor award on the planet this year.

What adds so much to this film is the intercutting of scenes in color from a 1981 Romanian romantic drama about a female taxi driver and her lovers entitled Angela Moves On, where actual locations used in that film (which posits a dreamy socialist workers' paradise) are contrasted with the somewhat frowsy, fly-blown black and white industrial vistas of the same Bucharest locations today. To further mix up the mise-en-scene, Radu has Angela meet her actual taxi-driving doppelgänger from the earlier film, now living with her husband, the romantic male lead from that same film, both of them aging not all that gracefully, but both still spry and delighted by the coincidence of meeting their younger counterpart.

Angela toils relentlessly daily, driving hither and yon all day through Bucharest, shifting gears in a stop-start repetitive motion, wending her way through the slow-moving traffic in a POV shot filmed directly next to her in the cab of her van, a shot whose duration eventually leaves you exhausted (if not nauseous)--not that far afield from Straub-Huillet's 1972 History Lessons where the protagonist endlessly shifts gears as he meanders through the streets of Rome.

Throughout the day, we observe various Chantal Ackerman-like slices o' life vis a vis Angela's quotidian behavior at gas stations, fast food joints, restroom toilets, in the bed of her boyfriend for a quickie etc., while she struggles to run errands for her local film studio bosses, with whom she's hoping to ingratiate herself and rise beyond her ascribed entry-level role as a menial gofer. This preening gaggle of media hacks are uniformly portrayed as narcissistic boorish pricks groveling in the service of a monolithic Austrian industrial complex, whose marketing director, the haughty and imperious German Nina Hoss (Tarr), has hired them to film a public service announcement about worker safety that will hopefully absolve the company of any liabilities in a pending lawsuit filed by a local worker injured in an industrial accident at one of their factories in Bucharest.

The film's final scene is one of those jaw-dropping 15-minute or so long takes on the order of Bela Tarr where everything in the frame (including the shifting weather, something that couldn't have been foreseen) conspires to create one glorious, comedic mess as the Romanian film crew tries to repeatedly browbeat and coach the hapless accident victim and his skeptical family into reluctantly mouthing (for a mere pittance) what will prove to be incriminating statements about the accident's circumstances that will surely be used against the family in court so as to deny their pending lawsuit and get the Austrians off the hook from paying out a fortune, while Angela blithely films one of her obnoxious bragging Bobita-rants off to the side (I'm still cracking up as I write this from the sheer sardonic comedy of this scene). I cannot say enough positive things about this film. Jude reinvigorates Cinema with a fuck-you cheeky impertinent swagger not really seen since Bande A Part.

If you want to see a work that exactly describes the Way We Are Today, Here in the Western World, Eastern European division, you could do no better than see this film.

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