Is There a Doctor in the House?

Health, in life and film, dominates Cannes

Of course, it's not just the world's great cinemas that have disappeared but also the great, curious audiences. Take, for example, the most widely acclaimed film thus far exhibited in this year's main Cannes competition: Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. The title refers to the duration of a pregnancy — one about to be terminated by a young woman named Gabita (Laura Vasiliu), who waits nervously in a cheap hotel room for her friend, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), to return with the abortionist. The year is 1987; Ceausescu is in office; abortions are punishable by murder charges.

This is a searing film, shot in something close to real time, in long, unbroken takes that wrap around you like a vise. At this stage of the festival, it seems almost certain to win a major prize. Yet, as you might imagine given the subject matter, it is also the kind of movie that causes potential distributors to run from the theater like cows from a burning barn. As long as there is a Cannes, I suspect, such films will continue to be made and presented to large audiences under ideal screening conditions. But where do they go from here? And is 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Daysreally a movie fit for exhibition on iPods?

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