Infinite Football ★★★★

A gentle reminder that Romanian New Wave filmmakers have given us several of the best comedies of recent years, Porumboiu’s sly documentary Infinite Foodball is a subtly profound and deeply ironic look at one sad sack’s attempts to funnel his life’s disappointments (a shin injury, a dull job, repeated failures to secure a work visa, etc…) into changes in the rules of soccer. An existential meditation in the guise of an episode of Nathan for You, this unique film sees the deadpan Porumboiu himself on-screen for much its runtime as his longtime friend Laurentiu Ginghina describes his past traumas and his ever-evolving plans to make “the beautiful game” more beautiful.

By no means is an appreciation for sport required to enjoy this tale of a bureaucrat who puts himself up against bureaucracy. Indeed, though Porumboiu is far too restrained to ever make his intentions entirely lucid, it’s quite apparent that football represents for Ginghina an arrangement of constraints that he hopes to redeem. That he ironically schemes to do this by imposing more rules gives the film both its most obvious political undertones and its greatest source of humor. Indeed, Ginghina’s contradictions make him one of the screen’s more interesting everymen of late. Comparing himself to a superhero, he is an avatar for a Romanian populace struggling with globalism’s disappointments. His quest to derive freedom from staying still is presented as a fundamentally national question, just as his answers to his quandaries (Got stuck in a corner? Create more corners!) are at once hopeful and undeniably self-defeating.