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An Angel Hooked On Me

Minimalist production design and deliberately ambiguous characters leave no room for emotion in tyro Romanian helmer Gheorghe Preda's aseptic, awkwardly titled "An Angel Hooked on Me."

With:
With: Anca Florea, Constantin Florescu, Emily Daller. (Romanian, English, Hungarian dialogue)

Minimalist production design and deliberately ambiguous characters leave no room for emotion in tyro Romanian helmer Gheorghe Preda’s aseptic, awkwardly titled “An Angel Hooked on Me.” More drawn to the aesthetics of emptiness than to the characters inhabiting his all-white interiors, Preda plays a game of cat-and-mouse between a young composer and her creepy secret admirer. But the idea becomes more interesting than its execution as the helmer’s meticulously vacuumed world seals off sustainable interest for all but the most experimental-eyed festgoers. Local B.O. barely got off the ground.

Severe asthma forces Ana (Anca Florea) to maintain a sterile environment, though she already has a predilection for barren walls and immaculate white spaces. A composer whose combination of traditional classical elements with industrial sounds (think rotating saw slicing through metal pipes) has made her a rising name in New Music circles, Ana is hardly a social animal. She’s just as happy to spy on her neighbors as she is to go out with English friend Kate (Emily Daller).

When a DVD arrives showing her going about her daily routines, she’s curious but hardly disturbed. At first it’s not clear if she’s noticed the cryptic posters addressed to her around town, but when a harpsichord is delivered, she sends it back to the mystery benefactor. She finally files a complaint against her invisible stalker, a sort of fallen angel if pic’s title is to be taken into account.

Annoyed but oddly fascinated, Ana tries to contact her admirer; instead, she’s drugged and winds up the sole patient in a hospital with an eerie, overly friendly staff. She escapes and meets with police inspector Stan (Constantin Florescu), who’s given little to work with when Ana refuses to discuss her private life.

Helmer enjoys the play of watcher and watched, trailing Ana through the streets and then having her suddenly turn around to silently confront the camera. But Preda comes across more like a theoretician experimenting with academic ideas than a director devoted to moviemaking. Florea’s numbed performance only furthers the sense that the pic is an empty shell.

More intriguingly, Preda sets the film in a decidedly upper-middle class Bucharest; auds who imagine all Romanian hospitals to be dire, “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu”-like institutions will be surprised. Controlled, bleak lensing displays talent, while flashback sequences employ the usual tics, from shaky images to scratched emulsion.

An Angel Hooked On Me

Romania

Production: A Transilvania Film release of an MDV Film presentation of an MDV Film, McCann Erickson, Total Professional Records production. Produced by Mihai Orasanu, Cezar Helmis. Executive producer, Alexandra Movileanu. Directed, written by Gheorghe Preda.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Silviu Stavila; editor, Laura Georgescu Baron; music, Cristian Lolea; production designer, Preda; costume designer, Mihaela Ularu; sound, Mihai Orasanu. Reviewed at Cairo Film Festival (competing), Dec. 6, 2007. Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Anca Florea, Constantin Florescu, Emily Daller. (Romanian, English, Hungarian dialogue)

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