Radu Jude’s cruel, cunning “Aferim!,” a 35mm black-and-white Western set in the feudal Romania of 1835, is set in motion by a runaway Roma slave, and the moral clash that ensues in the episodic road-movie structure is no less pertinent in modern times. A garrulous, racist bounty hunter (Teodor Corban, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” “12:08 East of Bucharest”), always with the aphorisms, suggests a cruder, crueler version of a Tarantino blabbermouth, if you can believe it. Jude keeps his camera at judicious distance, but its grit sets it apart from the stern minimalism of most contemporary Romanian filmmaking. (“Aferim” is Ottoman Turkish for “Bravo!” or “Attaboy!” and it’s as grimly ironic an expression as “Bravo!” is in contemporary Greece.) With Mihai Comanoiu, Toma Cuzin, Alexandru Dabija, Alexandru Bindea. 108m. (Ray Pride)
“Aferim!” plays May 27-June 2 at Siskel.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.