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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars California is only a dream away...
In 1999 an American troop detachment operating within NATO crosses Romania on train in order to deliver some radar equipment to Kosovo, where war is raging. At a remote station in the Romanian countryside the train is stopped by a seemingly overzealous station master, requesting the custom paperwork relative to the goods transported, documents which are not available to...
Published on 29 April 2010 by Joseph

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1 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unusual film.
Unusual film, you will not like it if you judge it by normal standards. Ultimately moving.
Published on 2 Sep 2010 by Mr. G. J. Fisher


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars California is only a dream away..., 29 April 2010
By 
Joseph "6" (Palermo, Sicily) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: California Dreamin' [DVD] (DVD)
In 1999 an American troop detachment operating within NATO crosses Romania on train in order to deliver some radar equipment to Kosovo, where war is raging. At a remote station in the Romanian countryside the train is stopped by a seemingly overzealous station master, requesting the custom paperwork relative to the goods transported, documents which are not available to the american captain in charge of the detachment. The train is therefore left stranded for days at the station, waiting for the paperwork, and the presence of the "Americans" stirs the imagination and inventiveness of the nearby village's population. Businessmen vie for the chance of notoriety and foreign investment they think will come with the stranded train. Young girls - among which the station master's daughter - seek the chance for romance with the Yankee soldiers and, especially, the connected hope to escape from their poor village to an imaginary future in the American dream.
Meanwhile the friction grows stronger between the American captain and the station master, with NATO and Romanian bureaucracy working frantically and very inefficiently to resolve the impasse. The station master is a very unlikeable but very human character, who has his own very deep and ancient reasons for his behaviour, reasons that are progressively disclosed in some very nice flashbacks in B&W relative to his youth. The tension boils to a climax at the end of the film.
This is a funny - though not hilarious- little movie that works on so many levels. It deals with the perception of the US and of the American way of life in a country so far removed from both, physically and mentally. It deals with troubled family relationships, it deals with burocracy and corruption, but in my opinion what is most impressive is the portrayal of cultural difference and exploitation, and in the end one is left wondering who is really is exploited and who is the exploiter. I heartily reccomend this funny satiric movie.
Interestingly enough, the story is based on a true event, as we can learn from the extras. As a note, the movie is subtitled in English only when there is Romanian speech. When the spoken language is english (about 15% of the screen time) there is no subtitling available.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars California sidelined on the Baragan Plain, 16 Nov 2012
By 
Richard (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: California Dreamin' [DVD] (DVD)
A very promising first feature by writer/director Cristian Nemescu who tragically died two days before completing the editing. The film was essentially finished therefor and has been released in the form it was in at the time the director and sound designer were both killed in a road accident (as is stated in the opening titles). How much tightening Nemescu might have done is debatable but certainly my impression is that it would benefit from a bit here and there --it tends to sprawl a little and includes some relatively minor stylistic raw touches. Essentially however, this is a very fine and enjoyable political satire with many beautifully achieved cinematic moments. If you like Robert Altman's approach to the Human Comedy you will almost certainly enjoy this stylish and spirited little Romanian film very much.

Essentially the story (set in Romania during the 1999 Kosovo conflict) centres on a situation in which the presence of a stranded train of U.S. marines acts as a catalyst for local mayhem to comically ensue as different factions seek to exploit the imagined opportunities presented. Without giving the plot away, it gradually builds to a climactic regime-change moment which, on a local scale clearly is intended to echo the bigger revolutionary shift in Romania's recent historical orientation from East to West. The story presents the tragicomic aspirational desperation of small-town characters who, although in this case Romanian, could stand in for people anywhere trying to escape the mess and boredom of their existences by grasping opportunistically for whatever 'out' fate presents. Here, it's a misconceived version of the American Dream being grabbed at (hence the title) but the poignancy of their yearning is a universal thing easily related to. And it's beautifully depicted.

The comedy in these characters' struggle mostly derives from a classic combination of miscommunication and driven, base-desires. However, in this case, the messy energy and manner in which this universal condition is expressed seems to be a characteristically Romanian version. That's what I found particularly fresh and enjoyable to engage with. It's a type of intelligent satire expressed with a stylish vitality and sense of fun undercut by a subtle desperation which I don't recall having seen in a mix quite like this elsewhere. I felt it had a distinctive screen-character all it's own and one which is worth the price of admission alone.

The Romanian cast is excellent --particularly the station-master character played by Razvan Vasilescu who gives a masterly, assured performance of real depth. Most of the supporting company of actors are first class too and the depiction of small-town Romania is really well done. Less convincing though are the wartime flashback sequences and the American marines which in both cases felt inauthentic to me. In particular I found the role of Captain Jones played by Armand Assante problematic. He simply didn't come across as the old-school military man he was supposed to be. His performance seems more appropriate to a New York Mafia boss than a military man (surely not an intentional satirical move on the director's part) and I feel he was miscast. In fact none of the Marines (played by American actors) felt real. Presumably this is down to a relatively inexperienced young director working with a foreign cast members. However, these flaws are easy enough to ignore in context, and basically the production is a polished one.

In short, I found this a very enjoyable and fresh film with a distinct, memorable contemporary character of its own which most fans of European cinema are sure to appreciate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, warm and insightful comedy about Romania, 10 Oct 2011
By 
AK (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: California Dreamin' [DVD] (DVD)
California Dreamin' is definitely a multilayered movie, even though it is the comedic elements that sell the movie first and foremost. An American military transport, enroute from Constanza to Kosovo during the 1999 bombing campaign of Yugoslavia gets stuck at a local train station, where the station master refuses passage, until all paperwork is completed and handed over.

This results in an interesting clash of two cultures, with the American captain desperate to get the train going and the local stationmaster stoutly refusing to budge. The supporting cast of American soldiers out for a good time, a multitude of locals out to sort their own problems through the medium of the Americans, girls dreaming of a better life in the US all add their comic moments and the movie being made in Romania, this is not a Borat [Blu-ray] type over the top comedy but rather a more authentic representation of what comes astir in such a situation.

While most of it is of course pretty funny (even more so to people who have at least a rudimentary understanding of both cultures clashing here), there are some more serious elements mixed in, too. These give the movie additional depth and will leave a mark lasting longer than just the memory of the funny scenes.

While perhaps not as hillarious or full of symbolism as something like Black Cat, White Cat [1998] [DVD], this is a very good movie nevertheless and I am pretty sure you will spend an enjoyable two hours with it. Better still, it is based on true events - another example of truth being stranger than fiction.

In addition to the movie (with English subtitles only) you will get the theatrical trailer and a documentary on the making of, which fills in some of the blanks, and even includes the interview with the 'real' reluctant stationmaster.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars See this film!, 5 Nov 2009
By 
A. C. Peterson (The Hague, The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: California Dreamin' [DVD] (DVD)
This film turned out to be as hilarious as I had hoped, yet it also participates in a serious dialogue about America's influence in the world, as it deals with reactions of some non-Americans (in this case Romanians) to America. A top quality film with fascinating characters and a plot that won't let you down.
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1 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unusual film., 2 Sep 2010
By 
Mr. G. J. Fisher (united kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: California Dreamin' [DVD] (DVD)
Unusual film, you will not like it if you judge it by normal standards. Ultimately moving.
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California Dreamin' [DVD]
California Dreamin' [DVD] by Cristian Nemescu (DVD - 2008)
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