Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days finally receives a release from the Criterion Collection. The film is presented on a dual layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The high-definition 1080p/24hz presentation comes from a new 4K restoration (undertaken by Mingiu), scanned from the 35mm original negative.
The film has a fairly dank and grayish look to it; unsurprisingly it’s not really going for a happy vibe. Yet despite this it has a new life to it I never would have expected. The dreary colour scheme still manages to come off looking wonderful here, saturated as nicely as can be expected, and black levels look really strong here. Some darker exterior shots are admittedly hard to see but that has more to do with the photography and the lighting than anything to do with the restoration and encode.
The restoration has also cleaned up all signs of damage. Nothing seems to remain. The image is also incredibly sharp and highly detailed, even the number of long shots managing to show a high level of detail. It keeps a filmic look, renders grain rather well, and I didn’t detect any noise or digital artifacts. It looks wonderful and if the wait for this edition was due to the restoration work than it was certainly worth it. 10/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
Criterion’s long rumoured special edition finally arrives sporting a handful of features. There are two new interviews exclusive to this release, recorded in 2016: one featuring director Cristian Mungiu, and the other with critic Jay Weissberg.
Like his interviews found on Criterion’s editions of Beyond the Hills and Graduation, Mungiu gets more into the technical details and the decisions that went into filming it and editing the way he did, even explaining in great detail the thought process that went into specific sequences. He also talks about the political climate of the time period depicted in the film, explaining the abortion laws implemented in Romania and the reasoning behind them. Granted, I’ve only seen three interviews with the guy, but I am impressed by how much detail this guy can get into yet never repeats himself, while also keeping it interesting and—shall I say—educational! It’s a very quick 37-minutes.
Weissberg’s contribution (running 24-minutes) features him talking about the history of Romanian cinema (which was literally non-existent for decades) and how it experienced a rebirth and international attention thanks to films like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. He talks about the years that led up to this “Romanian New Wave” and talks about the style of the films that came out around the mid-2000’s, the “realism” found within them. It works as a wonderful crash course on Romanian cinema and Mungiu’s work.
Like Criterion’s other Mungiu titles footage from the Cannes press conference for the film is included, which features Mungiu, director of photography Oleg Mutu, and actors Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov and Alexandru Potocean. It runs 44-minutes and features everyone addressing several questions from members of the press. There are some about the film’s look, about laws around abortion in the country, and so on. There is of course a question about one choice made near the end, and Mungiu explains why he went the route he did, even explaining he filmed the scene in question multiple ways so he did have a choice when the time came to put it all together. There’s nothing too surprising here and it unfolds like every other press conference, but it’s still interesting to listen to Mungiu talk about his work and get details from the actors on what it is like to work with the filmmaker.
The biggest surprise on here, though, is the 16-minute The Romanian Tour. The opening notes explain that the number of movie theaters in the country had dwindled over the years, to a point where there were only a few left in the country. If anyone wanted to go to the theater to see a movie they were pretty much out of luck (it’s not explained in great detail but it sounds as though the costs to import and distribute films far outweigh what would be taken in). Through interviews with various moviegoers we learn the last time they saw a film in the theater with one having last saw The Matrix in the theater, another The Last Emperor. To get 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days seen the film’s distributor actually set up a caravan tour of sorts, basically sending a van around the country carrying a high end portable projector, complete with a Dolby sound system, stopping in towns and cities and setting up in auditoriums and school gyms. This documentary gets into the nitty gritty of the equipment used (which is not cheap and very high-end), the process of setting it all up, and what everyone had to go through in making sure no damage was done to the film, which was 35mm. It’s a wonderful and fascinating inclusion, not at all what I expected.
Criterion also includes two alternate endings and one deleted scene. The deleted scene is mentioned in the Cannes segment and it features Gabita and her father. Mungiu explains the reasons for it being cut in that Cannes interview, and the reasons make sense (it basically takes from the flow of the film, which follows one character entirely throughout). The alternate endings are a bit interesting; they’re the same in setting and how they generally play out, but the first goes on a little longer after where the film ends, and the other plays the final shot a little differently. The one chosen for the finished film works best. In Mungiu’s interview he talks about the dinner sequence going on a little longer but that has not been included here.
The disc closes with IFC’s trailer. Ella Taylor then writes a wonderful essay on the film in the included insert.
Not a stacked edition but the material, from another great interview with the director to the fascinating documentary on a traveling cinema, is rewarding and engaging. 8/10