Parking – Where the kitsch pulls over
To say that Parking, Tudor Giurgiu’s latest film, is a production for the general public would be an offense to the audience. To summarize, the film adaptation of the novel “Closeness” (by Marin Malaicu-Hondrari) is nothing more than a systematic fall in clichés, clumsy dialogues, widely used local humor, and thick lines.
Adrian (Mihai Smarandache) is a Romanian immigrant established in Spain where he works as a guard in a car park. His connection with Romania seems minimal, despite his wife waiting for him at home. Still, the film will insist, without any agenda, on the dynamics between the protagonist’s past in Romania and his current time in Spain. This dynamics will be built mostly by trivialities. If it isn’t the ‘tasty’ jokes meant for the local audience, such as a couple of Teleorman crooks or a burlap sack with zacusca and pickles, there is an emphasis on the variations the word “Romanian” gets in conflict discussions. Visually, we are mostly in a Euro-nowhere (term used by Andrei Gorzo to describe the space in Touch Me Not) of the outskirts – parking lots, gas stations, freeways, trailers, etc., a commendable directorial premise, but not really a rescue boat.
Giurgiu casually delivers a dramatization of the immigrant’s situation (except for two moments, one as Adrian’s spontaneous confession to his boss’s partner, and the other one during a quarrel regarding the salary Adrian did not receive). The film follows the love story between the protagonist and Maria (Belén Cuesta), a young Spanish wannabe musician. When he doesn’t evoke frivolous ideas on his status, Adrian can easily be confused with the most unpopular student in Arts school. He is an unpublished poet (in the meantime, he gets published as a surprise for his birthday by his friends from Romania, an unlikely scenario, at the very least, for someone who actually did publish a book at some point), a hermit who takes refuge in writing and readings, an unschooled romantic. The fact that a character seems to have so little to say, doesn’t stop him in any way from speaking or being listened to. Giurgiu provides him an exotic aura created by the other characters, but mostly by himself. The whining about the writers’ life being really uninteresting puts forward the exact opposite of what Adrian’s character actually delivers. The result – creating the portrait of the romantic who converts his thoughts and experiences into poetry, poetic views that are so far beyond the understanding of his inner circle, made out of simple-minded people. So simple that no one seems to make the effort of developing them narrative-wise, despite some existing complex premises. Let’s stop over the character of Adrian’s wife and the few minutes that she appears on the screen, and then later she disappears in the most convenient way – a small quarrel. Of the few minutes, one is granted to a whining-joke about how she traveled with pickle jars all over Europe. This kind of humorous gimmicks are at best enjoyable, but they wear out quickly.
The relationship between Adrian and Maria is a collage of love movies’ clichés, which holds Parking back from any noteworthy cinematographic evolution. This visual ABC of the cinematographic love story is dense, but not suffocating – Giurgiu’s own flashes of kitsch seem to find their path easily. Thus, besides the erotic scenes in the elevator, fiery sex (which is actually meant as between candles) shaking the car, Maria’s crying while she packs her bags, running and screaming on the beach, there are also moments unique in their own way, like the memorable sequence where Adrian arranges the pills meant for an overdose in the form of a heart, a sad face, etc.
What seemed in the beginning of the film as an interesting attempt, but rather naive, was the introduction of some 8mm shots as a way of presenting some of the protagonist’s memories (flashbacks). The naivety is in the very artificial form in which Giurgiu delivers this footage – if the 8mm film is iconic for the amateur cinema, the scenes in Parking are shot by a plan, with rigid and schematic camera movements. Then, if the first 8mm scenes present something that is meant as Adrian’s childhood in Romania, then the following are either reps or additions to the present action of the film, but without any sound. In all the confusion of the film, all these scenes do is destabilize its structure. So, what we have here is just some pointless footage that tends towards arthouse.
At the risk of outbidding, I find there is a favorable outcome of using these unjustified scenes – putting the viewer at a distance, in particular by the opposition of the silent scenes to the almost ubiquitous soundtrack that overloads the rest of the film. And any kind of distance is most welcome in this situation.The action scenes, on the other hand, come as a breath of fresh air at the end of almost two hours of messing it up. Although they don’t fall outside the established pattern of lack of directorial skill, they ensure consistency and suspense, being the highest level Giurgiu touches in the film. But the air is getting thin again, this time for the last time, at the abrupt finale of the film.
I’m not denying that Parking is capable of stirring up sympathy or amusement – it often asks for this kind of reactions in an obvious way, and, probably, at times it will even get them. However, what the film can do is dictated by what it cannot, and such a warm bath in mediocrity can’t accomplish too much.