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Variety - Love Sick (Derek Elley)

A Transilvania Film presentation of a Libra Film Prods. production, in association with Multi Media Est., Transilvania Film, Creative Sound. (International sales: MDC, Berlin.) Executive producer, Dragos Vilcu. Directed by Tudor Giurgiu. Screenplay, Cecilia Stefanescu, Razvan Radulescu, from Stefanescu's novel.

With: Maria Popistasu, Ioana Barbu, Tudor Chirila, Catalina Murgea, Mircea Diaconu, Virginia Mirea, Tora Vasilescu, Valentina Popescu, Mihai Dinvale, Carmen Tanase, Mihaela Radulescu.

Two Romanian college students embark on a sapphic affair that's just like, well, any regular heterosexual romance in "Love Sick," a slim but refreshingly angst-free item that should have legs beyond the usual gay-pic ghetto. Complete lack of hangups by the central couple, plus way in which one girl's incestuous relationship with her brother isn't even made a cause for comment, make this smooth feature debut by helmer Tudor Giurgiu a quietly offbeat pic that should resonate on the fest circuit prior to specialist pickups.
With no character backgrounding nor any of the usual courtship rituals, Cristina, aka "Kiki" (Maria Popistasu), tells in voiceovervoiceover how she met Alex (Ioana Barbu) on her first day at college and immediately fell for her. Alex is shown moving into some top-floor digs with cranky old Mrs. Benes (Catalina Murgea), in the same building as Kiki, but it's not revealed until much later that the girls, at this point, have known each other for a year already and Alex spent the first year living on campus.
Approach is typical of the film's opening reels, which interweave past and present into a semi-impressionistic wash as the characters reveal themselves to the viewer. Kiki's relationship with her older, slobby brother, Sandu (Tudor Chirila), is never spelled out precisely, though he acts throughout like a jealous boyfriend. At no time, however, even during arguments, do any of the three protags ever refer to the others' sexual predilections: throughout pic, the emphasis is on pure feelings, regardless of orientation.
The two girls are polar opposites. Alex, from the countryside, is quiet and studious, eager to make her parents proud; Kiki, from Bucharest itself, is always ready to put fun (including smooching) above books.
But there's a perceptible attraction between the two that comes across with very little sex shown on screen. An early sequence, where Kiki pierces Alex's ears for her, is suffused with playful tenderness (as well as an "ouch" quotient -- the piercing is for real). When, much later in the movie, Kiki worships Alex's naked breasts, the eroticism is way beyond what's actually shown.
Each girl's parents have no idea of their real relationship, a fact that's exploited for some light comedy when Kiki invites Alex round for dinner at the home of her parents. Scene is mirrored in pic's second half, when the girls drive to spend the summer at Alex's home in rural Pietrosita.
It's an awfully thin tale, but none the worse for that, thanks to terrific playing by Popistasu as the more extrovert Kiki and Barbu as the apparently pliant Alex. In a long final scene, which has the stamp of reality in its refusal to cross every "t" in its emotional reasoning, Barbu comes across especially strongly.
Other perfs are nicely shaded, with the elders portrayed in a mildly comical but not condescending way. In such company, Chirila's Sandu comes over a tad too brutish.
Tech package is fine, with some good-looking photography by Alex Sterian, especially of the Romanian countryside in summer.

Camera (color), Alex Sterian; editor, Alexandru Radu; music, Vlaicu Golcea; production designer, Adriana Grand; sound (Dolby SR), Gelu Costache, Cristinel Sirli; assistant director, Radu Barbulescu. Reviewed on DVD, Berlin, Jan. 30, 2006. (In Berlin Film Festival -- Panorama.) Running time: 85 MIN

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