Two lovers nursing a few secrets run into a working girl with a talent for manipulation in Adrian Sitaru's entirely p.o.v.-shot freshman feature, "Hooked."

With: Adrian Titieni, Ioana Flora, Maria Dinulescu, Alexandru Georgescu, Sorin Vasilescu, Nicodim Ungureanu.

Two lovers nursing a few secrets run into a working girl with a talent for manipulation in Adrian Sitaru’s entirely p.o.v.-shot freshman feature, “Hooked.” Taking a page from “Knife in the Water” but giving it a new visual spin, Sitaru makes form the king, but the relentless quality of the subjective lensing, shifting among the characters’ perspectives, offers only a modicum of insight. With such an inescapably intimate style, the characters had better be attention-worthy, and here the main couple just don’t fit the bill. Fests will take the bait, but further play won’t be reeling them in.

Mihai (Adrian Titieni) and Mihaela (Ioana Flora) set off on a picnic drive, their little disagreements smoothed over by light hand-holding. He’s the principled one, while she’s looser with the truth. Along the way, Mihaela accidentally hits prostitute Ana (Maria Dinulescu), apparently killing her.

Mihai wants to bring her to the hospital, but Mihaela panics and tries to dump the body. By now, it’s obvious that Mihaela’s married and terrified that a scandal like this would tip off her hubby about her affair. Suddenly, Ana awakes and asks if she can join them on their picnic. From there, Ana skillfully insinuates herself first with one, then the other, seeking out the weaknesses in their relationship and cleverly opening unmended wounds.

Pic’s strength lies in its refusal to resolve motivations — what Ana wants is never made clear, but it’s not money. Likewise, when her john Ionut (Nicodim Ungureanu) appears, his presence increases the film’s unsettled feel. Though violence never erupts, the expectation of physical harm looms heavily over the events.

Back in 1947, “Lady in the Lake” proved that making a film entirely with p.o.v. shots could be an interesting gimmick but had little future. Sitaru may think this kind of purely subjective lensing is the future, but he’s proven once again that it’s still just a gimmick. Rarely do brief eye flashes register anything that couldn’t have been gotten in other ways, and this kind of shooting, forcing thesps to play to cameras rather than to fellow actors, places a burden they’re often unable to overcome.

Consequently, neither Titieni nor Flora appear at ease, and they’re saddled with uninteresting characters few would choose to spend time with. Only the bewitching Dinulescu (“California Dreamin’ “) makes an impression, her cool play of innocence shielding something attractive and deeply unsettling.

Blow-up from HD retains a very digital look — pic allegedly cost less than $450,000.


Romania - France

Production: A 4Proof Film (Romania)/Movie Partners in Motion Film, ARTE France Cinema (France) production. (International sales: Rezo Films, Paris.) Produced by Juliette Lepoutre, Marie-Pierre Macia, Adrian Sitaru. Executive producer, Sitaru. Directed, written, edited by Adrian Sitaru, based on an idea by Radu Jude.

Crew: Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Adrian Silisteanu; music, Cornel Ilie; production designer, Sorin Damian; sound (dts stereo), Marius Constantin, Titi Fleancu, Razvan Dima, Yannick Coutheron; associate producers, Videolink, Ada Solomon. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Venice Days), Aug. 29, 2008. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Discovery.) Running time: 83 MIN.

With: With: Adrian Titieni, Ioana Flora, Maria Dinulescu, Alexandru Georgescu, Sorin Vasilescu, Nicodim Ungureanu.

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