Romanian satire revisits revolution around dictator's deposition

12:08 East of Bucharest

on June 06, 2007 by Ed Scheid
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In 1989 the dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu, was deposed after a citizen rebellion. Fourteen at the time, writer/director Corneliu Porumboiu watched with the rest of the country as Ceausescu fled the capital of Bucharest at 12:08 p.m. on December 22. Porumboiu's film, which received the Camera d'Or for best first film at Cannes in 2006, takes place 16 years later.

In a small town east of Bucharest, things haven't improved much economically since the revolution. Washed-out colors emphasize the continually gloomy atmosphere. A resident says that, even when it snows, the place remains dirty. In an introductory scene familiar with other films set in Eastern Europe, the wife of Manescu (Ion Sapdaru), a history teacher, demands that he give her all of his salary so that he will not spend it on alcohol.

Jderescu (Teo Corban), the owner of the local television station who has delusions of importance, invites Manescu and Piscoci (Mircea Andreescu), a retiree, to be on a program with him to discuss their activities in the revolution. Cleverly filmed in real time, the show holds the host and his two guests in view together. Manescu talks of bravely protesting against Ceausescu before he was overthrown. Reactions to his comments are highly amusing, with viewers phoning to disagree, saying there were no demonstrations in the town until after the revolution, when everyone could take to the streets safe from government reprisals. Manescu, however, continues to defend (or inflate) his actions.

The personalities and even the gestures of the three men add to the general absurdity, as a bored Piscoci folds paper boats while the pressure is on Manescu. With sly humor the film satirizes the “revision” of history to enhance what really happened.
Distributor: Tartan
Cast: Mircea Andreescu, Teo Corban and Ion Sapdaru
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: Corneliu Porumboiu
Genre: Comedy; Romanian-language, subtitled
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 86 min.
Release date: June 6, 2007
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