Skandie-votin' gentlemen prefer Anamaria Marinca, voted Best Actress
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Charles Lederer, Joseph Fields, Anita Loos, and Howard Hawks, 1953

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
Cristian Mungiu, 2007
#1, 2008 Skandies

I thought it might be funny to start this article by pretending I had these two films confused — "Jane Russell helps Marilyn Monroe obtain an illegal abortion in Ceaușescu-era Romania" — but it occurred to me that, hey, y'know, this isn't all that odd a pairing. You can make a case that both of these films are about the travails of a canny young woman looking after her ditzy companion. The chief difference is that while 4 Months is a character study focusing on the extraordinary lengths the protagonist goes through on behalf of a friend from school, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is crap.

Well. As a narrative it's crap. As a song-and-dance thing it might be fine, but I have no interest in Bollywood numbers or their Western counterparts. Dancing in general is pretty much lost on me, which may also help to explain my antipathy to martial arts movies. So why did I watch this? It was on the syllabus of the history class I'm auditing. Marilyn Monroe plays an unrepentant gold-digger, and at the end she gives a little speech about how if no one bats an eye when a man pursues only beautiful women, then women shouldn't be scolded if they pursue only rich men. The professor argued that, in affirming the prostitution model of marriage, the film sneakily subverts it, by naming a universal cultural practice that people seldom talk about in so blunt a manner. But, man, I'm getting pretty tired of the academic parlor game in which you declare some conservative mainstream work sneakily subversive (and the twin practice of declaring that a supposedly radical piece actually supports the status quo: "All anti-war movies are actually pro-war movies," that sort of thing). The professor quoted the epigraph of Domination and the Arts of Resistance — "when the great lord passes the wise peasant bows deeply and silently farts" — but let's not privilege the flatulent peasant over the actual dissident.

As for 4 Months, I liked it as a character study and was very interested in its depiction of 1987 Romania, but less interested in its evocation of existential states. There is, for instance, a long sequence in which the protagonist is walking in the dark with a terrible secret, and it reminded me of working on the screenplay last year — there's a scene in which a character is also walking in the dark which my writing partner considered one of the linchpins of the whole movie, but which didn't really mean a lot to me because, like, she's just walking and nothing is really happening in terms of plot or character development. It's just capturing a mood... which, I have gathered, tends to be one of the things that film people tend to be most interested in. I still have no idea how I'm going to handle that scene in the book version.

One last note: 4 Months ends the exact same way as Water Lilies: main character looks directly at the camera for a split second, cut to the credits. So I'm kinda hoping Wall-E doesn't do that because fleeting portentous eye contact with a robot is a bit more than I could take.

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