Director Tony Gatlif's latest is chock full of all the elements of his films that make him a long term favorite: rural Transylvanian locations that reek of off the map authenticity, non-professional actors mingling with professional, gypsies, the struggle for life, the grasping for love and lots and lots of music. Add all of those things and Transylvania is a another slice of raw cinema from Gatlif.
Asia Argento plays a Parisian who goes to Transylvania with her sister to hunt down a boyfriend who left her suddenly in France. She's off the deep end in love, he's not. When she finds out his true feelings she loses it. We're talking running through the woods screaming like a wounded banshee kind of losing it. Argento is an actress who likes to emotionally freak out on screen (I covered her acting style a few months ago) so I'm sure she had no problem tapping into that side of her self. At times, this isn't a lot of fun to witness but at least the music that supports her breakdown is amazing.
Like every other Gatlif film, music, specifically gypsy or Rom music, plays a central role in the movie. Transylvania has some incredible songs in it. We get fast, wild, joyous fifteen piece stompers to slow, dirges of soul sick achers. The songs truly convey every emotional mountain or valley the human heart experiences and pulls the film up to another level rather than just being a gloomy downer.
Actually, I would have liked even more music and less of Argento doing her usual "un-acting." Her antics come close to spoiling the film for me. Transylvania is saved by its purity of music, setting and the cast of non-pros. There's something about the music that just gets to me with its exuberance and melancholy. Those are things that can rescue any Gatlif film from the dangerous touch of Asia Argento.