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The Senator’s Snails

Story opens with the senator (Dorel Visan) arriving in a small town in the Romanian countryside to open a hydro project.

Story opens with the senator (Dorel Visan) arriving in a small town in the Romanian countryside to open a hydro project.

He spends much of his time trying to make sure a Swiss TV crew presents a positive image of his country. On a whim, the middle-aged politician announces that he would like to eat snails the following night, and local officials press the town’s entire population into service. Sure enough, the next day the picturesque rolling hills are dotted with villagers desperately seeking snails for the senator’s dinner.

The quest for snails is turning ugly as tensions erupt among the Romanians and their gypsy neighbors.

Soon the town has a full-blown riot and, once again, the senator tries to make sure the journalists don’t hear about these social problems.

Daneliuc’s script contains an uneasy mix of broad slapstick humor and oblique political commentary, but it fails to deliver the requisite laughs or political insights. The allegory about post-Communist society isn’t even articulated fully: Essential point seems to be that social change moves at the speed of a sluggish snail and that the new political leaders aren’t all that different from the old Party bosses. Visan is suitably obnoxious as the lead character. The rest of the cast doesn’t really make much of an impression.

Shots of Romania are pleasant to look at and other tech credits are fine, if undistinguished.

The Senator's Snails

(SENATORUL MELCILOR) (Political allegory -- Romanian -- Color)

Production: An Alpha Films Intl./Ministry of Culture (Romania) production. (International sales: Media Pro, Bucharest.) Produced by Mircea Daneliuc. #Directed, written by Mircea Daneliuc. Camera (color), Doru Mitran, Petre Petrescu; editor, Melania Oproiu; music, Petre Margineanu; art direction, Petre Veniamin; costumes, Andreea Hasnas; sound, Gheorghe Ilarian. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 20, 1995. Running time: 100 min. The Senator ... Dorel Visan The Teacher ... Cecilia Barbora The Mayor's #Secretary ... Florin Zamfirescu Michel ... Dan Chisu #With: Madeleine Thibeault, Clara Voda, Camelia Zorlescu, Anda Caropol. The latest pic from prolific Romanian helmer Mircea Daneliuc, "The Senator's Snails" offers a not-so-tasty menu that includes a comic appetizer woefully short on laughs and a ponderously weighty political allegory as the main course. Like the film's deadly escargots, pic is likely to cause major indigestion. With a plot that progresses at a snail's pace, this unsatisfying comic drama from Daneliuc ("The Conjugal Bed") will not elicit much interest outside the film fest circuit, and the metaphorical critique of post-Ceausescu Romania will likely make sense only to moviegoers in Daneliuc's home territory.

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