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SUNDAY, 6TH APRIL, 10.00 A.M.
TUESDAY, 8TH APRIL, 8.30 P.M.
RUNNING TIME 105 MINUTES
The beautiful, dark and haunting Zingarina - played by the sultry Asia Argento, who exudes a vulnerability and quicksilver temperament perfectly suited to this role - finds herself in pursuit of the man she loves. She met this passionate musician in France but one day, inexplicably, he abandoned her, leaving her confused - and two months pregnant. Accompanied by her protective soulmate, Marie (Amira Casar), Zingarina throws herself body and soul into this trip, venturing into the strange, forbidding foreignness of the mythic territory of Transylvania. What she finds there is like life itself: surprising and full of the unexpected.
And we are encouraged to take this journey with her. Roma life is rootless and unencumbered, but it also demands a certain kind of bravery. This is a strange and unsettling place but also one full of compassion and humanity. When things take an unexpected turn, Zingarina discovers that to be free she must rid herself of ties and connections to her past. Only then may she really experience the possibilities that come her way and that promise her a new way forward.
Review by Laura Bushell:
Not a whiff of that famous Romanian vampire here, but another gypsy road trip from Tony Gatlif, the French-Algerian director famed for his exploration of Roma culture in Europe. Asia Argento stars as Zingarina, an Italian woman whose search for her Romany lover leads her to Transylvania, only to find he hit the road for a reason - he's not in love with her anymore. But far from slinking home, she embarks on her own odyssey across the harsh Romanian landscape.
Like the characters in his previous film Exils, Gatlis' Zingarina is compelled to drop everything and embrace the unknown. But instead of finding out about her roots, Zingarina is determined to detach herself from them, finding some fetching robes and transforming herself into a gypsy. This sense of liberation from racial and cultural identity is further emphasised when she hooks up with Tchangalo (Unel), an itinerant hawker who like her, is multilingual, so their conversation switches between languages throughout.
Channelling her sultry, if slightly off the wall charm, Argento is remarkable in her ability to glower and glow simultaneously, and looks at home in Gatlif's twilighty cinematic landscape. His vision of life on the open road is highly (sometimes overly) romantic, peppered with lively music and striking landscapes: it's the feeding of the senses that takes priority over plotting or polish in Transylvania.
Transylvania Review by Jon Fortgang for www.channel4.com A young Italian woman travels to Transylvania in search of her lost gypsy lover in Tony Gatlif's Romany road movie. Asia Argento and Birol Ünel star.
Director Tony Gatlif is the French-Algerian chronicler of European Roma who, with Latcho Drom, Gadjo Dilo and Exils, has mined gypsy tradition to tell stories as exotic, hypnotic and darkly romantic as the delirious reels which weave their way through his work.
Transylvaniareturns Gatlif to Romania, where in 1997 he set his most successful film to date, Gadjo Dilo, and his concerns haven't altered much. A road movie, a love story, a despatch from the front line of a culture rarely given space in world cinema, Transylvania is a film about identity and persecution in the hinterlands of Eastern Europe, where the raw business of life and death is inextricably bound up with music, superstition and love.
This time, Gatlif has two genuine stars of European cinema. Asia Argento plays Zingarina, a young Italian woman who arrives in Transylvania with a couple of girlfriends in search of the Romanian musician who got her pregnant. Zingarina's search takes her deep into the Roma's elemental heart, and then to the brink of madness. It is travelling trader Tchangalo (Ünel, the brooding star of Fatih Akin's German-Turkish drama Head-On) who eventually drags her back, and the pair achieve a strange bond born of their outsider status, and the shared beat of their damaged hearts.
Gatlif's films have never been slick. It's the struggle and resilience of gypsy culture that keeps drawing him back. Transylvania's story is skeletal and the dialogue sparse. Instead this is a cinema of landscapes, music, ritual, and faces: every wrinkle around the eye is the start of a story that ends with the mournful wail of a violin. Transylvania is at once an authentic and fanciful film that celebrates gypsy culture's ethnicity, its modern reality and its ancient myths.
Much of Transylvania has the style and urgency of a documentary, and in the film's early stages there's so much going on that Gatlif seems uncertain where to point his camera. Rightly, he follows his leads, whose semi-improvised performances are raw and instinctive. Appropriately, given the film's location, Zingarina's grief over her lost Transylvanian lover takes the form of a hysteria which, the film suggests, is actually a supernatural possession of the heart.
In a more conventional film Argento's wild, sultry, tattooed heroine would carry the story on her own. Here she's usurped by Ünel, whose heavy-eyed, scowling trader, shacked up in a car and breaking beer bottles over his head, might be the entrepreneurial cousin of his character in Head-On. Draping a tree with chandeliers, busting Zingarina out of an exorcism, and later helping her give birth in the back of his car in the snowy Romanian wilderness, Ünel's unforced physical charisma suggests a Brando of the Carpathian Mountains.
Whether the polyglot dialogue, which unfolds in French, Italian, Romanian and English, is intended to suggest the irrelevancy of words for these characters' powerful drives, or simply because Gatlif relishes the sense of cultures colliding, the film's emotional language is its music, much of it performed by the characters, and which pursues Zingarina - literally at one point - everywhere she goes.
The problems lie in the film's drifting lack of structure. Gatlif himself describes Transylvania as opening where most love stories end, but his own story fails to take proper shape. Zingarina's search for the father of her unborn child is overtaken by her descent into lovesick madness, and then by her relationship with Tchangalo, but there's more packed into the premise than the subsequent journey can take in, as if Gatlif has started down this road without knowing quite where it goes.
As a fault, it's strangely appropriate, yet Transylvania catches the moment and the mystery of life in this rundown corner of Europe. Those are homemade violins and accordions on the soundtrack, but the film's spirit is pure rock 'n' roll.
Raw, ragged, rambling and romantic - if the sound of a furious violin drifting down the alley quickens your pulse, you may find Gatlif's gypsy drama a seductive and potent experience.