12:08 East of Bucharest (2006) Poster

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10/10
Before the Revolution?
sweetnlowdown212 October 2006
December 22, 1989. What exactly happened that day in Bucharest? We know Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu left the country bringing about the end of Communism, but, was there ever really a revolt?

This might be a touchy subject for a movie to some Romanians. I mean, after all, the movie is asking questions and challenging the country's history. And there are people who are still alive who can tell us what happened. But, Corneliu Porumboiu's feature lenght directorial debut shouldn't cause any controversy.

"12:08 East of Bucharest" is many things. First of all it is one of the best Romanian movies I have ever seen. It is also one of the best films I've seen in 2006. It is one of the funniest movies I've seen this year and was the best movie I saw at the Chicago International Film Festival this year. But the one thing it is not is a controversial film.

What makes a film just as this so good is the way it weaves a serious subject with humor. Who would have thought a subject about the Romanian revolution could have been so funny? Romanians, and really most of us Eastern Europeans (I'm Hungarian) have a very sarcastic sense of humor. And that humor is shown in spades in this film. In fact the audience I saw this film with (and it was a packed house) were also in fits of laughter. I started laughing at myself for laughing. I was even trying to hold it in so I wouldn't disturb the people sitting next to me.

The film mostly follows three men, Virgil Jderescu (Teodor Corban) the host of a TV show that is going to discuss the 16th anniversary of that fateful day and his two guest, both of whom claim to have been there, Mr. Manescu (Ion Sapdaru) and Mr. Piscoci (Mircea Andeescu).

The first half of the movie introduces these characters to us as each gets ready for the show. The second half of the movie is the TV show itself.

I've complained lately that one of the reason Romanian films don't get distributed in America is because Romanians are going away from what they know. The country has tried so hard to maintain the image it is not behind with the times and wants to impress Western society. This is a big mistake. Don't care what Western audiences will think. Just make films about your country and deal with subjects that are meaningful to you (by "you" I mean Romanian directors). Earlier this year we saw "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu". There was a film that dealt with a "Romanian" problem and people all over the world not only enjoyed it, but, were able to relate to it. This, I believe, would happen more often if Romanian directors followed their hearts instead of some demographic.

"12:08 East of Bucharest" is dealing with a major part of Romanian history and the outcome is a brilliant film that all audience members should be able to relate to. The humor also helps the film by keeping the audience engaged.

I hope we see more films like this. And I also hope director Corneliu Porumboiu keeps making films and hopefully they will be shown in America.

p.s. I also wanted to quickly point out a similarity I found between this film and Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Spider's Stratagem". Both films question a time in history. Are there such things as heroes? Does fact ever get mixed with fiction? How can we separate the two? When is a lie more important than the truth, if ever? These are important things to think about.
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8/10
If you know anything about Romania, you will enjoy this film
mertzg8 September 2007
The viewer needs to understand that this is a Romanian film for Romanians. You'll catch all the inside jokes of the film if you've been there. The point of the film is that indeed the revolution was different for everyone . Even in late 1990 when I was there, the people were still scared of the Securitate, or secret police. Even during the one year anniversary of the revolution, it took courage to go and march, much less right after Ceausescu fled. The emphasis on 12;08, the reaction of the students when the teacher asked why they were so interested in the French Revolution, the interviewers emphasis on the time of the protests, and the accusatory views of the callers on the TV program, let alone the long shots of the bare dilapidated concrete buildings, all lend to the whole idea of the plot. Not only does one ask did the revolution occur in this one town, but did it occur at all? After all, Ceausescu's right hand people took over after he was gone. The people themselves ask if anything has changed.

The film can seem long and tedious to some viewers, but if you've lived in Romania, you get it.
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10/10
A small city, it's men, their Christmas trees
moody103219 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It is surprising that the movie got good rates from viewers outside Romania. It is incredible easy, as a Romanian, to connect to every image and to every word, so it becomes quite difficult to isolate the message that one can only receive through the experience of living the last 16 years in Romania, from the more general, human background of the movie. The movie is not a comedy. There are moments when you laugh. There are even more moments that will make you smile. But a comedy does not keep you thinking of it for days.

It's 22nd of December. 15 years from the Revolution. Three days until Christmas. Throughout the movies, the Christmas trees work as extensions of the characters. Manescu, the alcoholic history teacher finds in his apartment a cheap and ugly tree that he doesn't remember buying. Piscoci, the friendly retired old man (a surprise, since movies taught me that old men are lonely and isolated), takes advantage of the trip to the tiny TV studio, in the station owner's wrecked car, and stops on the way to buy a tree. Jderescu, the TV station's owner and talk-show host, a men that keeps statues of Plato and Aristotle on his bookcase, a host that starts his show with pretentious quotes from Heraclit and gets offended when his former job, as a production engineer, gets mentioned, well, Jderescu does not have a Christmas tree. So he will buy one, when Piscoci gets one. There is also o beautiful tree, shortly passing buy in the hand of an ex-student of Manescu, now working outside the country.

"No man can cross the same river", states Jderescu in the beginning of the show. Yet Manescu, the man who protested in front of the city hall in 1989, comes cross with that original day. We see him getting more and more wrecked, closing within himself, looking sideways, hesitating before each answer, facing old enemies, as powerful now as they were then, trying not to remember the mix of courage and cowardice from 22nd of December 1989. The callers in the show argue that he was not there on that day, and he gets lost in demonstrating otherwise, increasingly rabid, aggressive, more and more outnumbered.

And, meanwhile, an ignored Piscoci demonstrates, based on common sense, that the truth of each callers does not have to exclude the Manescu's truth.

Close to the end of the movie, we get two great moments. The only phone call in Manescu's defense is a mirror set in front of all those who speak before, reflecting an image so hideous that can only get rejected. And then, after this purification, to fill in the remaining time of a failed show, Piscoci narrates his memories of that day. So, was it or not a revolution in their small town? Well, no big history happen in there. Just small, human stories.

Ten stars, without a doubt. Just a handful of movies haunted me so many time after the end credits rolled on.
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10/10
Wonderfully quirky East-European production
Playitagainsam2 April 2008
A wonderfully quirky movie, rooted in the deep inner conflict experienced by many people who have to re-conciliate their Communist-era mentalities with(in) a post-Communist society.

Most Romanians (and East-Europeans alike) will understand it very well, since many clichés are present here: the vain, non-professional media, the desolate streets, the people without perspectives or hope, the arrogant new-rich former secret service people, the successful immigrants coming from even lesser parts of the world... all grafted on top of a nagging general feeling of guilt and shame, emanating from the sheep-like population.

Let's face it: the real (and only) Romanian heroes of 1989, "before 12:08 on December 22", were the several thousands of mostly young folks who defied the authorities in the streets of Timisoara and Bucharest... the rest of the country just watched and waited, much like the viewers of Jderescu's "talk show".

PS. - To the pretentious prig from Denmark: I think you were supposed to post your "art cinema" commentary under the latest creation of your much-ballyhooed co-national, Lars von Trier, "Direktøren for det hele" (2006). Your comments fit that film to a "T"!!!

If you have absolutely no idea what Porumboiu's minimalistic film is all about, and no respect or understanding for another culture, I think you should refrain from posting. Sadly, your inane text was at some point featured on the main page for this Romanian film, even though you - thankfully! - represent an insignificant minority of malcontents.
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8/10
a show of European cinema in Colombia
doloresthomas5 April 2008
There is really a lot to this movie. Even thought there is almost no evident action, except for the long television broadcast of an obnoxious talk show - even some apparently loose ends or inconclusive stories - the fact is you can ponder on days on this beautiful work of art. Acting is superb in most cases, and images of dusk and dawn in the freezing Romanian winter - so gray, so hard - are pure poetry.

The reference to dogma, among other keen jokes, talks about a clever story writer, and a cultured film maker.

I'm really glad I got to see this movie as a part of the "Eurocine" European movie showcase that visits us these days (april 08) in Bogota and the rest of Colombia. We get a chance to see the best of Romania, a country apparently so far away, yet so close to our hearts.
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8/10
Here is political farce at its best
roland-1045 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This film is set in a small Romanian city on December 22, 2005, the 16th anniversary of the downfall of the repressive communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu, which technically occurred at 12:08, just after noon, on the same date in 1989. Virgil Jderescu (Teodor Corban), an entrepreneur who has prospered in the post-revolution free market era and now counts the local television channel among his assets, decides to devote his personal talk show today to commemorating the anniversary of the week-long revolution. His guests are an old, white maned and bearded, much beloved pensioner, Mr. Piscoci (Mircea Andreescu), known for his annual Santa Claus appearances over the years, and Professor Manescu (Ion Sapdaru), a seriously alcoholic local academic historian.

Virgil poses the question for discussion: did the people of this city participate actively in the revolution or not? The answer turns on whether locals were agitating against Ceausescu by demonstrating in the town square before the announcement of his downfall, or, instead, whether people merely came out of the woodwork afterward, when it was safe, to coattail on the revolutionary triumph courageously brought about by others, in Bucharest and elsewhere in the country.

The last hour of the film presents the talk show episode in real time, and it is as good as the very best of briefer political sketches in the salad years of Saturday Night Live. Virgil is the unctuous host, trying to satisfy his guests and the contentious viewers who phone in to criticize the discussants on live audio feed. Old Mr. Piscoci offhandedly, almost reluctantly, acknowledges that, yes, he was present on the scene in the square that morning, and no one challenges this. You get the sense that this fact, like everything in his life, is no big deal. In fact, he seems thoroughly bored with the proceedings and spends his time making paper boats and what look to me to be cootie catchers from notepaper on the table where the three principals sit.

Prof. Manescu on the other hand, nursing an especially foul hangover, asserts with all the pride he can muster under the circumstances that he certainly was present, calling for Ceausescu's scalp, in the hours leading up to the moment of capitulation. A woman phones in to state point blank that Manescu's lying, that she personally saw him drinking in a nearby tavern until well after the moment that C. stepped down. A male caller, whom Manescu had accused on the air by name of being a member of the Securitate - Ceausescu's thug police - who hit him during a scuffle in the square, admits that while it's true that he was a Securitate agent at that time, and that he was on duty in the square, because of those very facts he can vouch for the previous woman's assertion that Manescu was nowhere to be seen until later in the day. Manescu responds by first defending himself, then trying to elope from the station during a commercial break. He's brought back and spends the latter part of the show in a silent funk.

The TV station itself smacks of our familiar local cable access operations. A single staff person, an indifferent, skinny young man, runs the camera, mans the phones, helps Virgil chase after Manescu, and reaches his arm across the table at one point to sweep away Mr. Piscoci's paper boats. The whole show is steeped in dark, understated humor, with, of course, serious subtexts about false claims of political glory and the larger issue of whether anything worthy of the term revolution really occurred in Romania, or at least in their town, i.e., whether most people in Romania are better off today or not.

I'd love to give the film an "A" grade, but it is compromised by a creaking, protracted, confusing beginning: the first half hour is devoted to scenes in which each of the three principals, in their apartments, is awakening for the day. These scenes are shadowy; it's even hard to decipher who's who for a while. However, these scenes do serve to establish the fact that life for the characters other than Virgil is not very good, perhaps little better than before the revolution, if that. This film won the Camera d'Or Award for best debut feature last year at Cannes. My grades: 8/10 (B+) (Seen on 01/31/07)
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9/10
A slow motion towards the essential
wbartl24 September 2007
A very good piece of work that seems slow when you watch it and is very effective in the end. It makes you sad and hopeful at the same time. After having gone through revolution the actors are sucked up by their daily struggles about money, love and dignity. The pictures are dark and don't make you want to go to Romania in December. Nevertheless it is a must for everybody who is interested in understanding Romanian culture. But first of all it is a contribution to the national discourse in Romania itself. I would like to see more of the process of Romanian self-reflection. Unfortunately Romanian films are hardly available on DVD outside of the country.
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10/10
Was it, or Was it NOT a Romanian Revolution?
screenwriter-1418 August 2007
12:08 EAST OF BUCHAREST deserves all the accolades awarded it at Cannes, and Corneliu Porumboiu's amusing, entertaining and important film is a great window into the questions of the "Romanian Revolution". The opening shots of a Romanian city with its lights blinking off and the photography of the concrete buildings that house Romanian families created a perfect background to launch the film and story and the question of "whether there was, or was not a Romanian Revolution".

The characters in the film were both colorful and rich, and the humor displayed was tremendous. When I look at the lives of Romanians in contrast to the vast riches of America, and I see men and women going about their lives in Bucharest and other Romanian towns, the question of the revolution almost takes a back seat to the citizens attempting to scratch out a living and survive. What Mr. Porumboiu gave to the world was a rich story, interesting characters and presenting the question of a revolution. That answer, must be seen in this wonderful film. I look forward to more Romanian films and other works from the very talented Corneliu Porumboiu.
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10/10
is it a comedy?
mowgli4 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Yes, I thought so. For the first two thirds of the movie. Then I started understanding it's so much more. If torn apart, crushed people can be amusing, then, yes, this is a comedy, and so is everything in life. Living a sordid life can be accepted as normal, and can made be fun of - and, in the end, what else is left to do?

What's interesting is that all characters, no matter how decaying might look, are given the chance of rehabilitation. The depressive drunken teacher? Well, he used to be a good man. His racist words have no actual meaning for him, just as curses don't have an actual meaning for children. And he used to play guitar, sometimes..

This movie's point is just so much deep beyond the visual - and even though it tricks us into believing it focuses on facts (in Romanian, the title reads like 'Was it or was it not?'), the message I perceived was that somehow, in the end, facts don't matter, not so much, but people do. Is it a comedy? Well, yes. But it's not 'hilarious', it's not Beavis and Butthead. It's a very sad comedy. It's life.
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10/10
A breath of fresh air!..
raluca-pache25 June 2007
That's how I can describe this movie. I liked so much and it was so funny. Good characters, great story, a very deep message, and of course good humor!

The story line, through simple, make you still wonder about the movie even after it is over. The movie makes a 360 degrees circle and returns in the same place it started, leaving all of the questions unanswered and yet leaving us with a sense of serenity.

It is a piece of history and an insight into the Romanian current reality. But most of all, it is beautiful satire. Very funny!

I really recommend this movie!
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8/10
Well-done Mr. Porumboiu, please continue your good work…
The film premiered today 2-6-06 at Cluj 5th International Film Festival. I were there… It is not I'm a cine-freak, but I love cinema. After the triumph (Camera d'Or prize) in Cannes of a practically inexistent Romanian filmography, we all were curious about Mr. Corneliu Porumboiu. Well-done Mr. Porumboiu… I should give you a ten, for proving to our fellow -constantly complaining- European fellows that one can make a good film with just a good scenario and without billions of Euros… I have to take away one point because only Almodovar, out of the leaving ones deserves 10, and a second point because,unfortunately your beautiful scenario would not easily strike audiences unfamiliar with the average Romanian. Yet, I did enjoy it and I want to thank you. Please continue your good work…
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Was there or wasn't there
sake herbert24 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
...a revolution in our town? This is not a movie about the revolution, it's a movie about life. You will notice perhaps how the writer inserts new elements on top of the old ones. The city, the people, their every day life seems to be the same. But there they are, a mobile phone next to the old furniture, the sofa with the carpet on it, a shiny car over the grey background of a building, the Chinese man who can speak romanian surprisingly well. These are signs of change, since the revolution, as the transformation was intended to be seen here. Also you will notice that the name of the town is hidden in all scenes: " Primaria (imagine brad de craciun)UI va ureaza..." ("The city hall of (the image of the Christmas Tree)UI is wishing you a Merry Christmnas!"). Also in the TV show, the name of the town is never mentioned, being replaced instead with "our town". This may be the writer's idea of cutting down the importance of the event (my guess). Another subtle way of summarizing the whole movie is right at the beginning of it: "the lightening of the street lamps", idea further carried out by Mr. Puşcoci: "The street lamps light up down-town first, and then one-by-one all the way to the suburbs".

So that is the way the revolution was seen. The comic part of the movie as others may have suggested is actually the reality of people trying to do what they see and think is good, to feel better about themselves, to appear better in the eyes of others, even if it is too late(Mr. Puşcoci's wife is dead), is about growing up and struggling to do better. I liked the music, the paper boats Mr. Puşcoci makes during the TV show, the way the wife tries to convince her husband to give her money for their daughter's vacation by showing him an old photo, the way a new day starts when the street lamps turn off,etc.
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8/10
Hilarious!
Illymovies5 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I had no idea what this movie will be about when I went to see it. I definitely didn't expect it to be a talk show. And I also didn't expect it to be a comedy. At first, things were going a bit slow, although there was some character development. The teacher had debts and alcohol problems, the older man led a pretty quiet boring life in his flat. Most funny thing was that the host of the talk show was trying so hard to arrange something at the last moment for the show. The guests didn't even confirm whether or not they will be on the show and he couldn't get a hold of them on his cell phone. Also, the images of women doing the house work and not men, like: oh, here are your ironed clothes for the show and your food, very typical. Then the talk show itself, makes fun of these types of shows in general, where all time is spent on introducing guests and the topic of the show, and everybody gets so off-topic during the show that nothing is really accomplished and no questions are actually answered.

The movie was very simply done, and it starts off with the sort of depressing pictures taken from an empty town, in the winter. Also, there is a scene in the old man's apartment, where you can see the microphone hanging at the top of the screen...I'm sure this could have been avoided, unless it was left in for effect, but it's a little odd to leave that in there like that, it should have been edited out.

All in all the movie was simple funny. I was entertained seeing it.
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9/10
Was it a comedy?
dumsumdumfai18 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
What a surprise this is. On the surface, this seems to be a comedy but it can also be about other things.

The movie can be separated into 2 halves, with first 1/2 as setup of characters and their backgrounds. The 3 main players are the host of a TV show, an old man who's always remembered as Santa Claus, and a down and out local drunk who owns a lot of money. Take a good look of this 3rd character and the situation presented to you, and evaluate what is your impression of him - save this impression for the end of 2nd half and see if your impression has changed.

The 2nd half of the movie find the 3 main characters in an almost real time live broadcast discussing the revolution the was held in the local town plaza 10 years ago. The segment is held in a fine balance between comedy and drama.
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Reflections of gray
Armand23 April 2007
Strong film about social realities of deep Romania. Revolution as myth and self legitimation, lives like gray shadows, society as symbol of failure. Don quixotic gestures and illusions like warm refuges , strange games and paper heroic values, disillusions and questions without answers.

An old man, an alcoholic teacher, a local television boss and a Chinese. Memories about December 1989 as occasions to present the social mud,hate and fear beyond the hideous masks, the slices of unhappiness and sterile search of life's sense. A sad show about horrible reality, nooks of desperation and traumatic dreams.

In fact, reflection of gray tones. Bovaric isle in a far East.
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10/10
Ah, yes, I Remember It Well
writers_reign18 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is a lovely, gentle satire that comes across even to Westerners who know next to nothing of Romanian politics and must be exquisitely rich to Romanians themselves. There's a lovely air of the quiet desperation that Thoreau claimed informed the lives of the majority. The setting is a small town in Romania where the owner of a small television station (he has a staff of one, reminiscent of those ubiquitous one-man radio stations in thirties America) is obliged to telephone invitees from his home to ascertain if he can rely on them to show up for his talk-show and then has to use his beat-up car to take them there. For his talk show this December 22nd he has opted to pose the question was there a revolution in THIS small town BEFORE 12:08 on this day in 1989. The fact this this is the SIXTEENTH anniversary of the downfall of Nicolae Ceaucescu and not a rounder number like 20th also smacks of desperation. To debate this with the Host/Station owner Virgil Jderescu (Teodor Corban) are History teacher and serious alcoholic Tiberiu Manescu (Ion Sapdaru) and a retired Santa Claus Emanoil Piscoci (Micea Andreescu) and for good measure the audience are encouraged to telephone with live on-air comments. On paper this is not exactly riveting stuff but writer director Corniliu Porumboiu proves adept at capturing the quirkiness and small-time score settling of, presumably, a small Romanian town. In some ways it is reminiscent of The Fireman's Ball with the same Eastern-European flavored humor and observation. I'll certainly buy the DVD once it becomes available.
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6/10
Strange little film that I didn't connect to. But others did.
Screen-717 December 2006
I went to this film for the simple reason that I had never seen a film from Romania even though I remember that Revolution well.

Honestly, I didn't really like the film that much.

However, I saw it with a packed audience and they were obviously enjoying it and laughing a lot! So, I can't really pan the film since it's clear that others resonate with it.

POSITIVES: I did like the shots of Romania in the winter -- I really felt like I experienced the place and that's speaks very well for any movie. I also thought the actors did did a darn good and convincing job. The subtitles were well done, which isn't always the case. I did laugh a few times during the TV studio scene.

NEGATIVES: He takes WAY TOO MUCH TIME to build up to the studio scene and then he spends WAY TOO MUCH TIME on the studio scene! It needed either a few more plot elements or more character development of the supporting cast so I could care about them more. The only one I really connected with was the Chinese guy -- probably because there was some identifiable back story there.

But, obviously, that's just me. You might really like this film -- obviously others do.

----

PS: Sometimes I don't know how good a movie is until a week or two after I see it -- if I'm still thinking about the movie, then that's a good sign. Well, this movie passes that test. I'm still thinking about how funny the two guests were on the TV show. The fact is, if I laugh at all in a movie, it's better than most comedies!
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10/10
Very emotional and bittersweet film
Ruxandra Grecu30 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Porumboiu's film is extremely funny (in a very Romanian way), and it's also very realistic. It's like I know all those crazy characters... The old man saying "It was better in the communist regime", most of the people calling just because they can and not because they have something important to say... I was very fond of the history teacher and I kept hoping that someone would call to rehabilitate him... I felt like they were stealing the most important moment of his life, his minutes of glory. He didn't have any witnesses to his presence there. And you know what happens: people with common sense, even alcoholics, they don't think they should defend themselves for something they did... and he said simply that he was there. his only friend, the Chinese shop-owner, tried to defend him, but was rejected by the rich guy, in a very prejudiced kind of way, that we see here so much... I found myself knowing that it was true... he was there before 12.08, and there was a revolution in that town, thanks to the four teachers. I guess everybody has to decide what he believes. I believe good people like Manescu never get a lucky break i this country, they are just considered suckers. And rich guys know how to manipulate people around them, like Bejan, the former secret service guy. (By the way, every member of the secret service said they were on holiday, just like Bejan). I hope Porumboiu makes us another good movie very soon!
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7/10
You're On The Air!
Spuzzlightyear8 November 2006
The ouster of Ceausescu from Romania certainly isn't exactly the comedy event of the century, but those wacky Romanians, who just nailed black comedy last year with the black 'The Death of Mr. Lazerescu' set to it to make this film, all about a call in TV show about the revolution, as hilarious as possible. First of all, please just ignore the long, ridiculous, not needed preamble to the show itself, where the participants perform in mundane life. This was surprisingly dull, boring and totally not needed, No, what this film will be remembered for is the call-in show tour-de-farce that the three actors do. One of them is a host, the other 2 are the 'guests' that have rather dubious memories of the revolution. One of them sets himself out to be a ridiculous hero of the event, only to be shot down (or at least attempted to, he just challenges everyone at every turn) and the other is quite comfortable not saying anything, just sitting quietly making paper animals.. This is all perfectly ridiculous. I could have watched a full hour and a half of this nonsense rather then the ridiculously slow preamble before it.
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Minor but interesting humorous film touching on community discord/memories.
ton_de_lay_o13 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The film opens in a small town east of the capitol of Bucharest, Romania, as night falls. Street lights come on, then go out as dawn approaches.

A local TV host has decided to air a live discussion program on the 16th anniversary of the Romanian Revolution, December 22, 1989, which overthrew Nicolae Ceausescu.

As guests, he invites a local high-school teacher (who's also a semi-notorious drunk) and, because he can't get anyone else to come on the program, an older man who used to play Santa Claus for local children (including, at one time, the TV host himself).

As the program begins, the host makes some ridiculous quotes of Aristotle and Heraclitus in a failed attempt to give "gravity" to the discussion.

The local teacher seems to embellish his role as having been early to the celebration of revolution in the local square, protesting the repressive Communist regime a few minutes *before* Ceausescu fled in a helicopter. Callers to the program dispute his presence in the square before Ceausescu actually fled.

In the course of the calls, discord within the community becomes apparent. A previous Securitate employee, now a successful businessman, threatens to sue the host if his name continues to be mentioned. A local Chinese merchant, who sells firecrackers (a local nuisance) to children is reviled by the host as having nothing to do with the revolution and told to "go back to China."

The teacher, when he's drunk in the local bar, has cursed and ridiculed the merchant, but later when he's sober, sincerely apologizes to and borrows money from him. Sadly, the Chinese merchant is the only caller to stand up for the teacher and say that it's unfair for everyone else to criticize him.

The former Santa says that he came to the square, as others in the small town did, only *after it was clear that Ceausescu had been deposed,* when it was safe. He says, in a seeming bit of wisdom, that a revolution spreads in the same way that street lights in the city go on, from the center first, and then outward. People are afraid, and they do only what they feel comfortable with.

The teacher refuses to concede that he wasn't there first, protesting Ceausescu's regime before it was safe.

The host remarks, glibly, that since the use of photocells, all the street lights go on at the same time. It seems that the teacher is lying, but nothing is resolved in the discussion.

In the epilogue, we are shown scenes of the small city as night falls in the first Christmas season snowfall... but the lights don't all go on at the same time. Some take longer to illuminate than others. Some don't come on at all.
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5/10
Nice but lacks depth
qarliv10 June 2009
It is a nice movie to watch that discuss the idea of the 1989 revolution in a small town east of Bucharest. In a local TV station, a debate is initiated. The movie has potential that was not realized in practice. For example, it has a bit of humor that is nice. There are good actors but the script lacks any depth. You get hints that you have to analyze to understand the meaning of the movie. I did it only after the movie ended. The movie could have develop more the ideas that it presents, but finally it is disappointing. It lacks a good script. It ends suddenly leaving you with a sense the movie missed its goal. I heard other opinions that were much more negative.
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10/10
Real and Funny
Bruno V6 June 2013
I knew nothing about Romanian Revolution, then I read a bit about it before seeing this movie. I think this movie is really good. The characters are real and funny. I agree with the description Drama/Comedy movie. It has a very good story and, I don't know if it is because of the language, which I found the sound so similar with Italian (am I wrong?), the characters...but it really made me laugh.

I've watched two Romanian movies until now, this and ''The Death of Mr.Lazarescu'', and these movies seem to me so realistic that they have stayed on my mind ever since. I'm still hoping that my mother, who works in a hospital, to see ''The Death of Mr.Lazarescu''. I think it is so similar with situation here in Brazil that I want her opinion.

I really want to see more Romanian movies.

In short, this film is highly recommended.
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7/10
was it a good movie or not?
rmanory15 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I enjoyed and did not enjoy this movie, hence my ranking at the level of 7.

I am a speaker of Romanian, but left that country a long time ago, and as such I was very interested in the historical content of the movie. However, the movie, like the television show in it, leaves the spectator with the main question unanswered, and perhaps this is the director's message. Unlike other commentators on this board, I think that Manescu, the history professor, actually was in the Main Square protesting something or other on that day, and the callers who called during the program left sufficient doubt in my mind to believe that the guy has indeed been there. But that's not the main issue. The main (and very good point) of the film was the fact that the callers were trying to justify their own actions during that day and to dismiss anything Manescu might have done, only because had Manescu's story been accepted they would look bad in the eyes of their peers. The incident with the Chinese merchant is also very moving, showing that Manescu was a indeed a decent person, and making his version more credible in my eyes than that of the other eyewitnesses. I did not like the fact that for the first hour or so in the movie there is no closeup on the various participants, so that when they finally gather in the same room together, it is the first time that one sees their faces. In any case, there were a few things that reminded me of a few other Romanian films I have seen recently, such as The Death of Mr Lazarescu and 4-3-2. The common things are the simple apartments, the derelict buildings and the way people speak with each other, which is so different than the way people talk in the West. However, in my view the vulgar language had the effect of diluting the film's message. It is realistic, it does reflect the way people speak, but I can't believe that people use this language when calling a TV station. There was also a small problem in the plot: IN an early scene Jderescu is asked by his wife to bring his entire salary home, whereas in a later scene it turns out that he owns the TV station, and 'he made it' from a former engineer to a respected TV journalist and station owner. Overall, the movie has a mixed message. For Romanians living in Romania, it is a cruel satire on their way of life, their behavior with each other and their self image. The telephone call from the former Securitate agent-cum-factory owner is compelling, since to this day Romania has not acted against these people and it's a sore point in society, probably because of their large percentage in population, and also because the people who were closest to the Party were also those who managed to get ahead in business when the system has changed. In summary, I think that a good movie has to be able to make a mark beyond the local viewers, or the speakers of the language, and the fact that a Danish viewer gave it a low mark says something about this issue.
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9/10
a remarkable first film
dromasca10 August 2008
The maturity and complexity of the cinema shown by Corneliu Prumboiu in this first film is amazing. In one strike he finds his place in the first ranks of the Romanian 'new wave' - one of the most interesting cinema schools that has emerged in the last few years.

The story is divided into two. In the first part we see the principal characters preparing for a TV debate about the events that led 16 years earlier to the change of regime in Romania. The landscape is of a remote small city in eastern Romania, dominated by stagnation and corruption, which seems to have benefited little from the events 16 years ago. The characters live a limited lives, their aspiration are limited by their own demagogy, by age, by alcohol. They seem to descend both from Caragiale the greatest Romanian humorist (and maybe one the greatest world-wide, unfortunately little known out of Romania) and Sebastian, a Romanian Jewish playwright in the first half of the 20th century who focuses his work on the dreams of provincial people.

The second part is the debate itself, in real time and in the limited space of the TV studio. Fixed enclosures are a preferred location for many memorable scenes in the Romanian cinema lately, like the family dinner in '4 month, 3 weeks, 2 days' or the room in the Ukranian wilderness in master Lucian Pintile last film 'Tertium non datur'. And yet, a lot happens in this fixed space in the time-span of a TV debate, comical drama revealing behind the words the truth about the Romanian revolution - the empty present is based upon an empty past. Such locations allow Romanian actors to be at their best, and the emotions and message is based on their act. Here all actors play wonderfully, with a special mention for Mircea Andreescu.

Anghelescu's character has his own theory about the Romanian revolution. 'Let me explain you' he says, 'there is a time for anything to happen. It's like electric lights in a city, you have sensors that tell when night descends and when day breaks, and lights turn on and off automatically'. Really? Was indeed time of communism off in Romania in 1989 and conditions rip to turn on democracy? Was there or was there not a revolution? The film begins with daybreak and electric lights being turned off in the provincial city, and ends with the night descending and a purifying snowfall covering the mud. But then one must remember that lights are really turned on and off by pushbuttons from the control center.
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9/10
The Caragiale of Romanian cinematography !
rarmon-117 April 2008
Excellent !! I laughed and agreed to every scene of this movie. Indeed, you have to know the Romanian society and most of all the language (with the present English subtitles it misses most of the funny points). Like Ion Luca Caragiale the best Romanian satiric writer, the movie director caught the spirit of Romanian society (verbaly brave, practically gutless) like Fellini on Italians. Very good camera work, low budget movie and excellent results. The theme of this movie raises more interesting issues (and perhaps historical facts) that Romania never went through a real revolution, but only local rebellions or less, and went from one dictatorship to another (including several hundred years of Turkish occupation). Good work and very funny !!! 2 fingers up.
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