Happy New Life

Eye-catching surface cool can't cover for absent narrative energy in ironically titled rootless Romani drama "Happy New Life." First-time helmer Arpad Bogdan displays an impressive visual sense marking him a talent to watch, but dramatically inert pic will struggle to find life beyond fest invites assured by slot in Berlin fest's taste-making Panorama section.

With:
With: Lajos Orsos, Michaela Goczi, Istvan Szilvasi.

Eye-catching surface cool can’t cover for absent narrative energy in ironically titled rootless Romani drama “Happy New Life.” First-time helmer Arpad Bogdan displays an impressive visual sense marking him a talent to watch, but dramatically inert pic will struggle to find life beyond fest invites assured by slot in Berlin fest’s taste-making Panorama section.

In an anonymous metropolis, Attila (Lajos Orsos) lives a life of virtual stasis. Having grown up institutionalized, he has no connection to the vivid culture of his Romani (read: gypsy) heritage. He wanders among unnamed, vaguely shady acquaintances, summons childhood memories from facts in orphanage dossier slipped to him by a sympathetic worker, and lies curled in his bathtub under serene gaze of a fashion model ad boosted from a bus shelter. “I have no past,” he says. Nor, as it turns out, does the future hold much promise. An actor and stage director, Bogdan brings autobiographical gravitas to enigmatic tale of emotional ennui fueled by physical displacement. Yet result is more of a visual poem than a fleshed-out, engaging story. Tech package ably serves helmer’s confident, probing eyes. Fluid contempo score is a plus.

Happy New Life

Hungary

Production: A Laokoon Film production. (International sales: Magyar Filmunio, Budapest.) Produced by Gabor Sipos, Gabor Rajna. Directed, written by Arpad Bogdan.

Crew: Camera (color, Kodak), Mark Gyori, Gabor Szabo; editor, Gyori; music, Membran; art director, Marton Agh; costume designer, Andrea Flesch; sound (Dolby Digital), Lajos Csernoczky. Reviewed at Hungarian Film Week, Budapest, Feb. 1, 2007. (In Berlin Film Festival -- Panorama.) Original title: Bodog uj elet. Running time: 80 MINS.

With: With: Lajos Orsos, Michaela Goczi, Istvan Szilvasi.

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