12:08 East of Bucharest

Dir: Corneliu Porumboiu
Star: Ion Sapdaru, Teo Corban, Mircea Andreescu

I'm not quite sure what to make of this. It's Rumanian, and is set on the 16th anniversary of the revolution where Ceausescu was overthrown. A small-town TV host (Corban) commemorates the event by inviting two long-term local residents onto TV to discuss whether their town led the rebellion from the front - as alcoholic teacher Manescu (Sapdaru) insists - or simply followed along, surfing the wave generated by events elsewhere. I imagine it probably speaks a great deal more clearly to those who lived through (or, at least, have a greater knowledge of) the events being discussed. A fairly gentle satire seems to be the main aim, with the self-puffed importance of big fish swimming in a small pond, and the malleable way in which historical events are remembered, the main targets. Not exactly pushing the envelope, yet there's scope enough for adequate entertainment.

Porumboiu's cinematography deserves mention, simply because it's so relentlessly static it takes on a personality of its own: I've seen stage plays with more camera angles. The characters are deftly revealed, being built up slowly, but to good effect; the main problem is that the script doesn't know what to do with them. The second half is almost entirely the TV show, live and unedited and, while somewhat amusing, there's precious little sense of escalation or significant development of the participants. That's clearly not the aim, admittedly, and even during the less enthralling moments - which, to be honest, are frequent - I admit a grudging respect for what the creator is trying to do, since that's an entirely different direction from mainstream Hollywood cinema. I'm left to wonder if anything has changed for the locals since the revolution. One senses, probably not very much.

[The DVD was released through Tartan Video USA on October 9th and includes a commentary track by the director]

October 2007

The revolution will not be televised
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