12:08 East Of Bucharest

"Very Good"

12:08 East Of Bucharest Review


Far more levelheaded than the Romanian Rashomon that some reviewers have peddled it as, Corneliu Porumboiu's striking 12:08 East of Bucharest seems to be the only film from Cannes 2006 that was justly awarded. In fact, Romania has rather quickly become a strong force in global cinema, breaking out with Cristi Puiu's realist masterpiece The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and taking the Palm D'Or home this year for Cristian Mungiu's much-touted 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Though not the groundbreaker Lazarescu was, 12:08 marks another well-honed measure for a budding cinematic community.

When Romania revolted against the Communist regime that was in power from the 1960s until the late 1980s, nobody quite knew exactly what happened. The Ceausescu dictatorship seemed to be dragging the country into a tailspin with little hope of an end in sight. TV station owner Jderescu (Teo Corban) wants to glorify the events by turning his self-hosted news show into a discussion panel about his small town's role in the upheaval. His guests are a terminally-inebriated history professor named Manescu (Ion Sapdura) and a lonely Santa Claus named Piscoci (Mireca Andreescu). As the three endearing buffoons step onto the small soundstage to recount and take calls about the glorious day in December 1989, it becomes clear that the heroism of the people is in question and finally all for naught.

The smallness of the film speaks volumes. Half day-to-day, half public trial, Bucharest nervously paces back-and-forth between the amiable lives of its three attendees. Decidedly anti-Red, the filmmaker somehow is able to also find a communal vibe in the interactions that go on before the program. The drunken professor is given leniency for his boozing and is forgiven by the Chinese shop owner that he offended the night before; the Santa Claus is accepted as a small saint in his building. These moments also give way to moments of beguiling loneliness, however, richly layering the theatrics of the television show with a devastating sincerity. It's in the emptiness of Piscoci's eyes as he looks out his window and the detached lethargy of Manescu's short lecture to his students; these are lives led by solemnity.

Still, it's the show (trial) that creates the most fascination. Piscoci barely gets a word in edgewise, Jderescu is embarrassed and flailing and Manescu stubbornly disagrees with accusations that he wasn't anywhere near the main sight of the uprising. Porumboiu wisely sets us inside the camera, able to feel the bumbling shakiness of the teenager who is running the camera and see the claustrophobia of the damp studio. Less so for its comments on media, memory, and politics, Porumboiu's film might be best remembered as the evisceration of public myth, a sub-Ford study of the small legends we build in our minds. Manescu, married and in a job that simply pays the bar tab, exudes pride that he was part of something while Jderescu feels that he is doing some importance by remembering heroes of the revolution and the revolution itself. Porumboiu says it all in the dull, sticky silence that hangs between the three men when no more arguing can help the situation: Maybe the revolution should have been televised.

Aka A fost sau n-a fost?



12:08 East Of Bucharest

Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Friday 29th September 2006

Distributed by: Artroumain

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 45 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Corneliu Porumboiu

Producer: Corneliu Porumboiu

Starring: Mircea Andreescu as Emanoil Piscoci, Teodor Corban as Virgil Jderescu, Ion Sapdaru as Tiberiu Manescu, Mirela Cioaba as Doamna Manescu

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