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12:08 East of Bucharest

a film by Corneliu Porumboiu

When one first thinks Romanian cinema, one automatically and surely thinks hotbed of comedy. No? One doesn't? Oh, my bad. Seriously though, Romanian cinema may not bring thoughts of comedic tidings (although we know not what the future holds) but this little known national cinema could very well be the next big thing in world cinema. Like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Iran, Mexico, Hungary, Brazil, Argentina and the Czech Republic before it, this possibly burgeoning new wave is surely at the doorstep of cinephilia, and with three year's running of taking home prizes at Cannes, the knocking is getting ever louder.

Following Cristi Puiu's Un Certain Regard Award winner The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and preceeding this year's Palme d'Or winner Cristian Mungiu's 4 months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Corneliu Porumboiu's Camera d'Or winning 12:08 East of Bucharest, is indeed one of the funniest films I have seen in many a year. Telling the story of a mirror-happy cable access talk show host who tries - to hilarious results as mentioned before - to put together a televised roundtable discussion on whether the revolution against communism actually took place in their small Romanian town or was it all just an afterthought to events elsewhere. Able only to get the town drunk and a possibly senile part-time Santa Claus, the show, of course, goes awfully awry.

Juxtaposing this rather broad comedy with the mundane washed-out world that is Eastern Europe (at least in a visual sense), makes the film work as more than just comedy, but as social commentary as well. The gray squat buildings of Huxley's "Brave New World" are the landscapes of this brave new world of post-Soviet cinema - and boy is it ever funny (or at least this one is). [06/20/07]

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