(Feature film, Romania, 2007, 155’, Color, OVFST)
During the NATO bombing of Serbia, in 1999, in a small Romanian village, the chief of the railway station, who happens to be the local gangster as well, stops a NATO train transporting military equipment. The transport, supervised by American soldiers, is crossing Romania without official documents, based only on verbal approval of the Romanian government. Their arrival changes the place into the village of all opportunities.
"There's a tragic story behind the bracketed subtitle (which should really read "Unfinished" instead of "Endless"), because debut director Cristian Nemescu was killed in a car crash before he could finish editing the film. Nonetheless, California Dreamin' deservedly won the Un Certain Regard award at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
Despite its seemingly punishing two and a half hour running time, California Dreamin' is surprisingly gripping, considering it mostly centres on a delayed train. The interactions between the characters are extremely well written and the performances are superb, particularly Vasilescu (who does well to keep Doiaru even remotely sympathetic) and Dinelescu, who looks a bit like Audrey Tautou.
Alongside genuinely engaging characters, the film pulls no punches with its political subtext – it doesn't take a genius to work out the parallels with today's US foreign policy, especially after the shocking climax. There's also a lot of humour in the film (particularly during the various translation scenes) and Nemescu paints a convincing portrait of smalltown Romanian culture.
In short, California Dreamin' is a thoroughly engaging, superbly directed drama that demands to be seen.”