California Dreamin' (Endless)

California Dreamin' (Endless)


Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

California Dreamin's inciting incident involves a village railway station master out in the middle of nowhere on the line between Bucharest and Kosovo. He is a stickler for the rules and regulations of international customs and subsequently holds up a NATO military train. This train, carrying top-secret and important radar equipment used in the Yugoslavian war in 1999 is crewed by US Marines. Their captain, a "get the job done with a minimum of fuss" military man, and the soldiers therein cause a sensation in the barely alive hamlet.

Most of the villagers have their own agendas and use the arrival of the Americans to their own ends: the high-school girls seek a romance with the handsome square-jawed Marines and dream of a ticket to California, the striking factory workers use this as a political hot potato, and the mayor has his own private desire with the Americans and repeatedly clashes with the station master to impress them. The situation becomes like the proverbial frog in a slowly heated pan of water.

Copy picture

The single greatest problem with California Dreamin', is that it has been released in an unfinished two hour 20 minute assembly - due to the director Cristian Nemescu's untimely death. The film's released subtitle - "Endless" - details the film's primary issue. This cut has an insistence on procrastination - an endless and loquacious fascination with its stories that I did not share. It would benefit hugely from substantial cuts and trims.

The film also feels roughly fashioned and hewn together. No bad thing, you understand... It sports entirely handheld camerawork - which admittedly adds little to the visual storytelling. He also infrequently cuts between urban Yugoslav bombing scenes shot in crisp black and white and the main story, chapterised into the number of days taken between the start of the incident to the end, with a short visual prologue. You'll notice I don't mention character names, most of the characters are well-drawn and cast with a minimum of situational and relatory exposition - but they're easy enough to follow.

In spite of all this, there's a rough diamond of a film in this material; a blackly humourous house of cards built on cultural and language misunderstandings - with some devastating final imagery and a damning indictment of bureaucrats who cover their backs by absolving themselves of the mess they make. It also functions well as a pointed slice of satire on US foreign policy - the American habit of charging into situations, causing havoc and emerging with their hands clean. There are moments of levity - the shitfaced and audience-led Elvis impersonator performance of Blue Suede Shoes, for example is a cheery bit of fun.

If Nemescu was still with us, I imagine his film would be much shorter and clearer than it is now - the excellent script would pare down well. As it is, I can only barely recommend it.

Reviewed on: 03 Jun 2008
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California Dreamin' (Endless) packshot
A NATO transport train becomes detained at a rural station.
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Director: Cristian Nemescu

Writer: Catherine Linstrum, Cristian Nemescu, Tudor Voican

Starring: Armand Assante, Jamie Elman, Razvan Vasilescu, Maria Dinulescu, Alexandru Margineanu, Ion Sapdaru, Alexandru Dragoi, Andi Vasluianu, Sabina Branduse, Gabriel Spahiu, Radu Gabriel

Year: 2007

Runtime: 155 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Romania


London 2007
SSFF 2014

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