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12:08 East of Bucharest | Review

Out with the Old, in with the…?

Focalizing on how time stands still in modern post-communism time period, 12:08 East of Bucharest is a low-key, deadpan-styled, humorous portrait that after successful screenings in Cannes and Toronto should continue to be an audience charmer on the fest circuit and does a better job at joggling the memory than a comparable film like Goodbye, Lenin. Perhaps it’s a little too early to identify Corneliu Porumboiu’s debut as part of a new national film movement, but there is something funny in the waters of Romania.

With a perfect running time, the overly-digestible Cannes’ Camera d’Or winner is a reflective look back and, looks forward at the Dec 22nd, 1989 date in history where communist rule crumbled in favor of a revolution. The narrative and camera frame set up matches that of the current frustrating situation. Like confrere Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, this film debates whether the infrastructure is in a state of desperate repair or whether its people are contributing to the regression.

Public access television stations are perhaps not the most sound business plan for a career in journalism. From television sets to the national economy, in a country where nothing ever works, it comes as no surprise that people scrape the bottom to see what opportunities present themselves. Haphazardly, the narrative sees three male characters who’ve come together for what will be a low budget styled live televised debate on the discussion and what ensues is a more of a cross examination on how individual interpretations of the specifics of the key event alter the communal perception on the event.

With a tasteful bookend and jokingly toying with the idea of badly produced in-studio amateurism, Porumboiu paints his film with shades of grey allowing for his characters to boast and reflect the growing pains from an East European point of view, but thankfully the portrait is a colorful one thanks to the comic relief within the debate and the spoonful of low budgeted realities of the location that create an energy that is all about timing and delivery.

Festival du Nouveau Cinema 2006. Oct.10th 2006.

Rating 3.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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