Revolutions, Favorites, and Alzheimers

12:08 East of Bucharest

Three Romanian men, from middle-aged to Santa Claus-ian, sit
around talking on a charmingly cheap television set. The subject of
this talk show: the town’s response to the Bucharest revolution of
1989, on its anniversary sixteen years later. The men — and their
caustic callers — dive into minutiae, accusations, character
mauling, and sneak attack dry, high comedy. This is eastern
European talk show culture at its humblest, and cinema at its most
delightful quirky and absurd, with shades of the great old talk
show satire Fernwood
(with Martin Mull and Fred
) and Eugene

In short, director Corneliu
12:08, East of Bucharest
, one of the oddball charmers of
SBIFF ‘007, is a classic example of the idea that some of the high
points of this festival sneak in through a side door, and from an
unexpected niche of the world cinema scene. There are long
stretches where it appears nothing is happening, but the provincial
warmth and Eastern Euro-slacker humor are always humming beneath
the surface. The film itself also has moments of disarming beauty,
as in the sweet, symmetrical framing device of omniscient shots of
the city’s lights as they shut off at dawn and on again at dusk.
It’s a day in the life of a post-iron curtain city, and of a little
corner of planet earth.

(12:08, East of Bucharest will screen again on,
Thursday, February 1 at 4:30 p.m. and February 3 at 1:15


From Spain, we caught
, from newcomer director Daniel
Sanchez Arevalo
. (It’s one of those films over which festival
Roger Durling
violates his policy to avoid the “f” word—as in
one of his “favorites.”) darkbluealmostblack_iw.jpg It is charming and in ways entirely
different and more in-your-face than 12:08, wriggling its
way towards an Almodovar-ish mixture of kinkiness and
sentimentality. The film doesn’t get to that exalted state, and
maybe it’s unfair to make the comparison, but Almodovar has raised
a high bar in Spanish cinema and beyond. It’s hard to stay out of
his shadow when dealing with matters of the Spanish heart and

(DarkBlueAlmost Black screens again today,
January 30, at 4:30 p.m., January 31 at 1:30 p.m., and February 2
at 4:30 p.m.)

Away from Her

Often in the complex, collaborative medium of film, an overall
work may be flawed, but is rescued by some element or another.
That’s certainly the case with the Sarah
-directed Canadian film
Away from Her
, a sometimes poignant, sometimes prosaic and
education film-ish tale about a couple’s slide into Alzheimer’s
cruel sunset. away_from_her.jpg But the film is mostly recommended for
the luminous and calibrated performance by one Julie Christie.
She’s got glowing, elderly beauty in check, and a subtle range of
emotional connections, complicated by the crossed wires and foggy
pockets of her condition. Early in the film, she distractedly muses
“I think I may be starting to disappear.” The ensuing performance
fleshes out that very notion of a human disappearing act, but with
regular flashes of insight and emotional epiphanies along the

Hers may be the finest performance of SBIFF ‘007. The next few
days will tell.

(Away From Her screens tonight, January 30, at
7:30 p.m.)


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