Critics are hailing the emergence of a new Romanian cinema, though right now that bold, wise-sounding proclamation usually means “I have seen or read about three new Romanian movies.” No matter: even if the NRC produced only The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (and, judging from informed Cannes reports, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days), it’d be happily overachieving. And the umbrella of a movement provides shelter for a promising minor work like 12:08 East of Bucharest, a slowly souring comic postmortem of the day their Communist dictator fell.
After some slice-of-life scenes in a small-town burg, the centerpiece of 12:08 is the town’s cheapo local talk show, mercilessly live. Issue one: in the uprising against Ceausescu, were they brave rebels, or wait-and-see also-rans? A three-man “panel” and a parade of callers snipe and sulk in a small-town mix of acrimony and catharsis. It’s bittersweet history in the making, but no one seems too thrilled, dissecting by the light of a disappointing present.