Too Late

on May 31, 1996 by Melissa Morrison
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   The thriller "Too Late" is a fascinating example of how the former East Bloc's filmmakers are filtering the post-communist experience through their art. Costa (Razvan Vasilescu), a cool and sometimes cruel prosecutor, is assigned his first case: investigating the mysterious death of a coal miner. Costa is up against more than a killer. No one--not the rich mine owner, not Costa's bosses in Bucharest, not even the miners themselves--want the truth discovered, for their respective reasons. When the miners start dying gruesomely, one by one, none considers finding a job elsewhere. Mining has blighted the Jiu Valley and the lives of its families, but the miners have been so long underground they don't know how to live any other way.
   Costa isn't a crusading hero, but a determined investigator who's willing to violate some civil rights if he has to, even though the reason he has a new career at middle age is because of the previous regime's similar attitude. Costa is aided in his investigation by Alina (Cecilia Barbora), a topographer who fills the basic bimbo role by appearing naked frequently and giggling a lot.
   There's humor in "Too Late," despite the dark goings-on, such as when Costa gets the hiccups while viewing the mangled body of a victim. Throughout the film, a group of fresh-faced young musicians plays Schubert, part of the new government's effort to "bring artists out of their ivory towers." At one point they play, tuxedo-clad, in the entrance to the mine shaft while miners stream past them in their overalls to begin the day's work. The eventual discovery of the killer is a jolt both as the answer to whodunit as well as in its more abstract implications. In Romania, communism may no longer be in parliament, but it might have just gone underground.    Starring Razvan Vasilescu, Cecilia Barbora and Ion Fiscuteanu. Directed by Lucian Pintilie. Written by Lucian Pintilie and Rasvan Popescu. Produced by Constantin Popescu. A MK2 production; distributor not set. Thriller. Romanian-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 104 min. Screened at Cannes.
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