Film review: 'Bucharest' not without charms

Published: Friday, Sept. 28 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

12:08 EAST OF BUCHAREST — ** — Teodor Corban, Ion Sapdaru, Mircea Andreescu; in Romanian, with English subtitles; not rated, probable PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, slurs)

The self-indulgent "12:08 East of Bucharest" certainly takes its time getting to the point. In fact, the first third of this film could have been trimmed without much damage. And this Romanian comedy-drama is only an hour and a half in length.

But to be fair, once the movie finally gets going, it is not without a few charms. It doesn't take itself too seriously and manages to examine some Eastern European history in the process.

The film's title refers to the exact time of the supposed Romanian Revolution, which occurred just days before Christmas in 1989, and which saw the fall of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

The story is set in a small town located east of the capital city, and it looks at how the residents there reacted to news of the revolution. Local news director Virgil Jderescu (Teodor Corban) is planning an anniversary program that will feature interviews with some of those who were part of the uprising.

But first he must convince two locals — Tiberiu Manescu and Emanoil Piscoci (Ion Sapdaru and Mircea Andreescu) — to appear on his program.

The subsequent broadcast is beset with problems, technical and otherwise. And the increasingly hostile telephone callers are questioning whether Manescu and Piscoci were there for the revolution or whether they even participated in it.

Screenwriter/director Corneliu Porumboiu's debut is filled with static camera work and is very talky, which may put off some viewers. And the film's languorous pacing doesn't help.

But the three leads are good — particularly Andreescu, who seems genuinely disinterested. And the subject matter is worth looking into.

"12:08 East of Bucharest" is not rated but would probably receive a PG-13 for scattered strong profanity and crude slang terms, and slurs based on nationality and ethnicity. Running time: 89 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com