Review: ‘Turn Off the Lights’

Three young men with varying prospects leave prison in "Turn Off the Lights," an undisciplined docu by tyro helmer Ivana Mladenovic.

Three young men with varying prospects leave prison in “Turn Off the Lights,” an undisciplined docu by tyro helmer Ivana Mladenovic that originated in inmate workshops for Florin Serban’s “If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle,” also produced by the Mitulescu brothers. Though she starts with three jailbirds, Mladenovic concentrates too much on the most unappealing, Alexandru Mititelu, and her unsuccessful attempts to reveal something other than teen bluster add nothing new to the well-worn subject. Handheld lensing and unfocused editing rep a standard indie look and may appeal to scattered fests.

Giani Versace, the beloved son of a bling-sporting Roma family, is greeted by a boisterous welcoming committee when he’s sprung, unlike Chilibar Papan, whose hurt and lonely stare on exiting invites the kind of deeper exploration the pic can’t deliver. Instead, most time is spent with Mititelu, finishing four years in the slammer for killing his g.f. at the age of 14. Foul-mouthed and unrepentant, he’s obviously showing off to the female helmer, yet there’s nothing savory beneath his swagger. Dysfunctional families provide some context, but the overall feel is that of a graduation film.

Turn Off the Lights

Romania

Production

A Strada Film production. (International sales: Strada Film Intl., Bucharest.) Produced by Catalin Mitulescu, Daniel Mitulescu. Executive producer, Bianca Oana. Directed by Ivana Mladenovic. Written by Mladenovic, Bianca Oana.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Luchian Ciobanu, Claudiu Ciprian Popa; editor, Ana Iliesiu; music, Ion Dumitrescu, Andrei Dinescu, Horatiu Serbanescu. Reviewed at Transylvania Film Festival (Romanian Days), June 7, 2012. (Also in Tribeca Film Festival -- Viewpoints.) Running time: 71 MIN.

With

Alexandru Mititelu, Chilibar Papan, Giani Versace.

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