Lucian Pintilie, Dubbed "Godfather of the Romanian New Wave," Dies at 84

His early films ran foul of Romania's communist authorities and inspired directors such as Cristi Puiu, Corneliu Porumboiu and Andrei Serban.

Romanian film and theater director Lucian Pintilie died Wednesday at Elias Hospital in Bucharest, three days after being admitted in "critical condition," according to Romanian news reports. He was 84.

Dubbed "the Godfather of the Romanian New Wave," Pintilie — whose early films ran foul of communist authorities forcing him into exile in the early 1970s — was an inspiration to a new generation of Romanian filmmakers who have won international acclaim, including Cristi Puiu, Corneliu Porumboiu and Andrei Serban.

Known as a controversial filmmaker from the start, Pintilie's 1968 film Reconstruction — in which a pair of drunks arrested for fighting are ordered to reconstruct their brawl in a restaurant in front of cameras to demonstrate the pernicious effects of alcoholism — was banned by authorities that understood its implicit criticism of the communist system.

Pintilie left Romania in the early 1970s to work and live in Paris and later the U.S., where he continued to direct both films and stage plays.

He returned to Romania following the fall of the communist regime in 1989 and had a role in the Ministry of Culture, where he supported young filmmakers, including helping Puiu with his directing debut. Puiu was later a co-writer on Pintilie's 2003 satire of the end of the communist regime, Niki and Flo, and Pintilie was a co-producer on Puiu's Cannes competition film Sieranevada in 2016.

Writing in 2012 in the Chicago Tribune about a Pintilie retrospective, film critic Michael Phillips observed: "His cinematic work across five decades is the cry of outrage, shot through with gallows humor. Very little in the Romanian new wave, beginning with the 2007 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner, Cristian Mungui's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, would have been possible without Pintilie and his films."

Poland's Transatlantyk Festival, which was founded by Oscar-winning composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, said Thursday that its planned retrospective of Pintilie's films would now be a tribute. The fest is set to run July 13-20.

"We were very saddened to hear the news of Lucian Pintilie's passing," said Transatlantyk's program director Joana Lapinska. "He was a great and uncompromising artist, who never feared showing the true nature of the communist regime, even under the threat of a filming ban. The retrospective of his work we have prepared will be a homage to this great Euoprean director and his lasting heritage."