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Overall Rating

Awesome: 9.09%
Worth A Look: 9.09%
Just Average72.73%
Pretty Crappy: 9.09%
Sucks: 0%

1 review, 5 user ratings

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12:08 East of Bucharest
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by Jay Seaver

"One really nifty sequence... plus another forty-five minutes."
3 stars

Corneliu Porumboiu has an interesting question or two to ask in "12:08 East of Bucharest". He's got a nice cast playing interesting characters. What he doesn't really have is a story. You can do without, but ninety minutes is a lot of time for atmosphere and setup without a real payoff.

It's the sixteenth anniversary of the fall of communism in Romania, and Virgil Jderescu (Teodor Corban) wants to discuss his town's part in that on his televised panel show. He's having trouble finding people interested in participating, though - the revolution just isn't something that many modern day Romanians give much thought to. He winds up settling for Tiberiu Manescu (Ion Sapdaru), a college professor who was among the first protesting in the town square that day but now concerns himself with a massive bar tab among other debts, and Emanoli Piscoli (Mircea Andreescu), the old man known for playing Santa Claus at the school every Christmas. They wind up blindsided by the question Jderescu asks - was there a revolution in their town, or did they just come out until after everything had been done?

That's a hugely loaded question, one which potentially indicts the entire community for their passivity. The twenty minutes or so after Jderescu poses that question are a real-time single shot of his talk show, held through the commercial breaks so that we can see Jderescu and Manescu fight over how the latter is being treated. It's a nicely staged bit of tension, with Manescu feeling blindsided, Jderescu realizing that he has kicked over a hornets' nest, and Piscoli affably trying to smooth things over but demonstrating that age doesn't necessarily bring wisdom or expertise. The scene is contentious, but also funny - Andreescu almost always has a sort of goofy look on his face, and the poor camera work emphasizes what a small-time operation Jderescu's station is, pointing out that for all the passion Manescu and Jderescu and their callers invest, it doesn't really matter to more than a handful of people.

As clever a set piece as that show is, the movie does kind of peter out afterward. It's written like a friendship-destroying confrontation, but the beginning of the movie doesn't establish much connection between the characters. They each have their own little stories that establish who they are, but their stories are separate, intersecting mainly in how they're annoyed by children setting off fireworks. It establishes that in some ways, the town isn't very different than it was under the communists - there's still not enough to go around - but it doesn't tell us anything particularly interesting about our lead trio. It almost feels like padding. Not quite - there are some nice bits in there - but I wouldn't be shocked if Porumboiu had started from the TV broadcast and filled in around that.

It's a shame, really. There's the start of a really clever movie (or something else) in what happens once the action reaches the TV station, but the stuff Porumboiu surrounds it with isn't quite up to the same standard.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15012&reviewer=371
originally posted: 03/01/08 00:06:03
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2006 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2006 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Portland Film Festival For more in the 2007 Portland Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/06/08 Phil M. Afficiando Quirky and funny, but ultimately doesn't have much of a story or point 3 stars
3/05/08 Nicholas Plowman Pacey at some points, it is ultimately a rewarding film 3 stars
1/01/08 Steve Good movie 4 stars
12/13/07 William Goss Too deadpan for its own good. Feels long even under 90 minutes. 2 stars
8/18/06 marius the best mouvie of the year 5 stars
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  DVD: 09-Oct-2007



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