BUCHAREST — Romania's "New Wave" supremo Cristi Puiu returns to Cannes on Friday with what he describes as a "mind-blowing" crime story, "Aurora".
Winner in 2005 of the Cannes section showcasing new talent, "Un Certain Regard", for "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu", the 43-year-old is the leading figure of the tiny country's "New Wave" school, which in barely a few years has scooped a bucket of world awards.
Among them are Cristian Mungiu, who won the 2007 Cannes Palme d'Or for "4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days", as well as Corneliu Porumboiu and Catalin Mitulescu.
Talking to AFP in his Bucharest apartment lined with books and CDs, Puiu said of "Aurora": "It's a compelling film that will not let your brain sleep." A three-hour, Romanian, Swiss, French and German co-production, the movie, he said, "blows up narration" as we know it, inciting viewers to "use a detective's tools in order to reconstruct the puzzle."
After "Mr. Lazarescu", the "story of a man who dies" as a victim of an uncaring health-care system, this movie is the "story of a man who kills," he said, but also a love story of its own kind.
In the movie, 42-year-old engineer Viorel drives around Bucharest determined to put an end to the insecurity that has dominated his life since his divorce.
"He decides to make justice as he understands it, brutally intervening in other people's destinies," Puiu explained.
In order to make the movie, the director spent months in jails and morgues, talking to policemen, prosecutors and convicted murderers.
"What I'm interested in is what makes a man kill," he said. But he admitted he still had "no clue", since "we all live in our own minds".
For this second installment of a planned "Six Stories from the Outskirts of Bucharest" Puiu decided to play the leading role.
"I realized I owed it to myself to be Viorel. That was the only way I could be consistent with my idea," he said, after having seen 60-odd professional and amateur actors at work but none of whom had the penetrating eyes he wanted.
Acting, he said, "paradoxically helps you be yourself while impersonating someone else."
But he admitted it was difficult to have his crew follow his directions.
"I told the cameraman to follow Viorel as if he were a toddler just learning to walk and likely to fall at any moment and hurt himself," he said.
"The camera had to be on the guard all the time, not knowing what would happen next, jumping when shots are heard."
With much of the movie filmed through a door frame, Puiu said this was his way of reminding the audience they are "not watching a story but the director's way of telling it".
The title, he said, referred to "the precise moment when day breaks and nature awakes. The character's action throws him into a new life, his whole world is transformed, just like the others'."
Puiu said he was pleased to bring the movie to Cannes, but added:
"It can be booed, dismissed... I don't mind, as long as people see it."