Stuff and Dough
Discover the film that kicked off the Romanian New Wave
When Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu won the Prix un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2005, international critics began to take notice of the exciting realist cinema emerging from Romania. Many felt this ‘Romanian New Wave’ was a flash-in-the-pan, critic driven movement but it shows little sign of slowing down ten years later, thanks to the continued festival success of Puiu and his peers like Cristian Mungiu and Corneliu Porumboiu. Thanks to Second Run DVD, UK audiences are now able to get hold of the film that kicked this wave off, Puiu’s unreleased debut, Stuff and Dough, a Hitchcockian road movie about life in post-Ceaușescu Romania.
The ‘stuff’ of the title is a mysterious bag of prescription drugs; the ‘dough’ is the two thousand US dollars Ovidiu (Alexandru Papadopol) is promised if he delivers the goods to a local gangster in Bucharest. Accompanied by two of his friends, Ovidiu soon finds his car being tailed by a red SUV and quickly realises he might have bitten off more than he can chew. Like so many contemporary Romanian films, Stuff and Dough adheres to an austere realist aesthetic, with Puiu’s handheld camera lurking in the back of Ovidiu’s van like an extra passenger, sharing in their boredom, annoyance and eventually their fear and trepidation.
Puiu is a honed observer of human behaviour and understands how the constant threat of violence in a post-communist state unaccustomed to the competitiveness of a market economy can work as a dramatic catalyst. However, he ratchets up the anxiety further by giving little explanation for the violence Ovidiu encounters. Stuff and Dough is a slender and restrained film, yet this austerity masks a finely tuned script about the difficulties of navigating between corruption and survival when individual aspiration is put above all else.
As well as the HD restoration of Puiu’s debut, this disc also includes his 2004 award-winning short Cigarettes and Coffee. An inversion of Jim Jarmusch’s 2003 film of the same name, where the joys and addictions of life are ruminated upon, Puiu’s series of vignettes is about generational incommunicability and shifting values of post-Ceaușescu Romania. This release also includes an exclusive interview with Puiu by Second Run founder Mehelli Modi, and a booklet featuring a fascinating essay about Puiu’s work by film critic Carmen Gray examining what sets it apart from his Romanian New Wave compatriots.
Released on DVD by Second Run