×

Paul Negoescu Pays Homage to Woody Allen With ‘Summer Lover’

Relationship comedy bows in Transilvania’s Romanian Days

Paul Negoescu realized he hit the jackpot with “Two Lottery Tickets,” the low-budget comedy he shot for around €30,000 ($35,000) which – to the surprise of everyone, including the director himself – would become the top-grossing Romanian film of 2016, raking in €540,000 ($630,000) at the box office.

But for a helmer whose first feature, “A Month in Thailand,” screened in the Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week, a breakout, box-office hit didn’t change expectations for his third movie, “The Story of a Summer Lover,” which world premiered in the Transilvania Intl. Film Festival May 31.

“It’s a different film,” says Negoescu, calling “Summer Lover” a “personal story” that he suspects will appeal to a smaller, niche audience. Modest ambitions aside, the movie is bound to generate buzz off of Negoescu’s earlier successes; even if it can’t match “Lottery’s” big payout, “people will hear about this film, for sure,” he says.

The eponymous anti-hero of “Summer Lover” is the philandering Petru, an adjunct math professor who splits moral hairs with mathematical precision when he justifies bedding co-eds half his age. (They’re not his students, he insists.) Content to continue reaping the benefits of an open relationship, his endless summer comes to a jarring end when his girlfriend suddenly announces she’s pregnant. Faced with the prospect of commitment, Petru can’t quiet his doubts any more than he can silence the troublesome pigeons nesting in the rafters of his bachelor pad.

Though Negoescu’s original screenplay mined that unexpected pregnancy for all its dramatic worth, script doctor Jacques Akchoti steered him toward comedy instead, during workshops at the Jerusalem-based Sam Spiegel Intl. Film Lab. Studying the filmography of Woody Allen, Negoescu soon found himself channeling the neurotic protagonists of the director’s early works, casting Alexandru Papadopol – star and co-producer of “Lottery” – as Petru, a “hypochondriac, paranoiac [who’s] questioning everything around him.

“I never thought I could make a film in [Allen’s] style,” Negoescu says, although he’d always admired the director’s movies. “[‘Summer Lover’] is not only inspired by Woody Allen’s films, but it’s an homage to him.”

Cue the horns. Just as George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” announces the opening montage of “Manhattan,” “Summer Lover” swells with the musical arrangements of composer Hristo Namliev, who reworked the popular songs of the early-20th-century musician Titi Botez. While the “foot loose and fancy free” lover of the titular song describes the bed-hopping Petru to a tee, Namliev’s score is also the perfect musical accompaniment for what Negoescu describes as “a very romanticized version of Bucharest.”

It’s a flight of fancy that should play well with Romanian audiences accustomed to seeing a more dour vision of the capital onscreen: even a fledgling post-Communist state has room for swanky bars and bistros alongside its Soviet-era office blocks and hospital wards. Negoescu credits the unfussy, unpretentious style of “Lottery” for its great success, a sentiment echoed by Petru in “Summer Lover’s” opening scene, when he protests to his friends, “People won’t pay for what they can’t understand.” Even Shakespeare, he notes, “wrote simple stories for regular people. Boy loves girl—conflict.”

Rendered with all the certainty of a mathematical proof, it’s a formula that Negoescu follows to the letter, even if he insists his crowd-pleaser stems from deeper artistic convictions.

“If you want to make a success, you don’t need to think about what the audience would like to see,” he says. “If you’re true and honest in your intentions…then your film will be liked by the audience, too.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Samuel-W.-Gelfman

    Samuel Gelfman, Roger Corman Film Producer, Dies at 88

    Samuel Gelfman, a New York producer known for his work on Roger Corman’s “Caged Heat,” “Cockfighter” and “Cannonball!,” died Thursday morning at UCLA Hospital in Westwood following complications from heart and respiratory disease, his son Peter Gelfman confirmed. He was 88. Gelfman was born in Brooklyn, New York and was raised in Caldwell New Jersey [...]

  • Margot Robbie stars in ONCE UPON

    Box Office: 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Pulls Ahead of 'Hobbs & Shaw' Overseas

    Sony’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” might not have hit No. 1 in North America, but Quentin Tarantino’s latest film is leading the way at the international box office, where it collected $53.7 million from 46 markets. That marks the best foreign opening of Tarantino’s career, coming in ahead of 2012’s “Django Unchained.” “Once [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Leads Crowded Weekend With $21 Million

    The Bean Bag Boys, the self-appointed nickname for the trio of best friends in Universal’s “Good Boys,” are conquering much more than sixth grade. They are also leading the domestic box office, exceeding expectations and collecting $21 million on opening weekend. “Good Boys,” which screened at 3,204 North American theaters, is a much-needed win for [...]

  • Amanda Awards

    ‘Out Stealing Horses’ Tops Norway’s 2019 Amanda Awards

    HAUGESUND, Norway —  Hans Petter Moland’s sweeping literary adaptation “Out Stealing Horses” put in a dominant showing at Norway’s Amanda Awards on Saturday night, placing first with a collected five awards, including best Norwegian film. Celebrating its 35th edition this year, the Norwegian industry’s top film prize helped kick off the Haugesund Film Festival and [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content