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DID YOU READ

“12:08 East of Bucharest,” “The Kenneth Anger Collection Vol. 2”

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: “12:08 East of Bucharest,” Tartan, 2007]

The emergence of “new waves” may well be a matter of Newton’s Third Law — fatuous, homogenized blockbuster “action” produces an oppositive reaction, from the otherwise optionless cultural industries of nations the New Globalism forgot, be they Iran or Malaysia or Mexico or Romania. The reaction is not just the filmmakers’; discriminating audiences around the globe gobble up the proto-new-wave syntax of hyperrealism, open-ended narratives and daring art-film ethos, as they have recently with the Romanians, represented for the most part by Cristi Puiu’s “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” (which won Best Film from the nation’s most expansive critics’ poll, on IndieWire.com), Cristian Mungiu’s upcoming “Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days” and Corneliu Porumboiu’s “12:08 East of Bucharest.” (All three landed trophies at Cannes.) Of course, 95 out of a hundred Americans couldn’t find Romania on an unmarked map if their mothers’ lives depended upon it, and the films remain the quizzical film-year prizes for the anointed minority, for whom cinema is a challenge and a blessing and a mystery, not a mouth-breathing weekend-night distraction.

So, suddenly, a poor ex-totalitarian Balkan nation that had little visible film culture at all for decades (outside of Lucien Pintille, something of the new generation’s granddaddy) is now the hotbed of what the world’s film festivals perceive as new-millennium cool, fresh, expressive and pertinent. “12:08 East of Bucharest” is a key film in the movement, because it explicitly addresses the 1989 revolution that ended the Ceauşescu regime, a pivotal moment in the country’s sense of itself — during which the filmmakers of Porumboiu’s herd were still teenagers and film students. (Indeed, the best primer for “12:08” and all of modern Romanian film is Harun Farocki’s found-footage doc “Videograms of a Revolution,” available from Facets, which assembles all of the broadcast material from the week of the revolution, which was, thanks to the seizure of the nationalized TV network, televised from beginning to end.) Porumboiu’s movie, like its contemporaries, possesses a Slavic-style death-rattle humor, and is set in a muddy, worn-down post-Communist Bloc village of newly capitalist predators and broken losers. On the 15th anniversary of the overthrow, we meet three of the trashy little town’s men: a smug, upwardly mobile local-station anchorman (Ion Sapdaru), a cynical history teacher completely wrecked from epic alcoholism (Teodor Corban) and an eccentric codger focused on playing Santa Claus for the local kids (Mircea Andreescu). The TV host’s show that afternoon will address the anniversary, and the resonant question, did the revolution happen in the town, or not? The comedy slowly leaks out of the inability to rope in anyone but the drunk and the old man as guests; once it begins, with the three men seated before the camera as if on a tribunal, half of Porumboiu’s film is consumed with the program and its collapse, as neighbors call in and rabidly dispute the teacher’s assertion of having participated in the historical moment, by (as he claims) heroically rallying in the town’s square at the moment (12:08, December 22) that Ceauşescu surrendered power.

Porumboiu’s actual title translates to “Was There or Was There Not?”; beneath the film’s head-on simplicity and deadpan wit lies an effortless docket of expressed ideas about memory, national pride, community politics and the new Romania, enduring as so many quasi-Third World states do on the outskirts of legality, poverty and social order. But unlike “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu,” also shopped by Tartan in this country as a comedy, “12:08 East of Bucharest” is authentically funny, in a boozy-Renoirian kind of way — the laughs drip organically from the characters. Porumboiu’s camera allows us to observe them in real time (as liberating a strategy as it is eventually brutally claustrophobic), and there’s no need for jokes.

A far more hermetic experience, Kenneth Anger’s rarefied avant-garde film output exists nowhere except inside his stormy skull — which by the looks of it is a lava pit of Satanist iconography, homoerotic kitsch, Tinseltown detritus and mythomania. Fantoma’s new Vol. II of Anger’s collected films, following up the juvenilia and precious early films of Vol. I, includes the opuses that made him famous: “Scorpio Rising” (1964), the landmark free-form portrait of rough-trade, James Dean-loving, leather-wearing, cycle-driving gay culture; “Invocation of My Demon Brother” (1969), the assaultive black mass montage featuring an unbearable synthesizer score written and performed by Mick Jagger; and “Lucifer Rising” (1972/1981), Anger’s vivid, semi-Egyptian “magick” epic (which had to be reshot from scratch after Manson cohort Bobby Beausoleil buried the first negative in Death Valley; as penance, apparently, Beausoleil recorded a score for the film from his prison cell). For several generations of American youth, this is what the real counter-culture looked like, and Anger’s crazed, fringy, non-linear syntax gave birth to thousands of idiosyncrat underground imitators, music video collages, nightmarish dream sequences, and even the new breed of post-“Se7en” credit-roll montages. The Fantoma package is practically genuflective, stocked with extras, including Anger’s full-on commentary, a rarely-seen 2002 short by Anger about his “magus” Aleister Crowley, restoration demonstrations and an artfully illustrated 48-page booklet featuring new essays by Martin Scorsese, Gus Van Sant, Guy Maddin and Beausoleil himself, all of 60 and still locked up.

“12:08 East of Bucharest” (Tartan) will be released on October 9th; “The Films of Kenneth Anger, Vol. II” (Fantoma) is now available on DVD.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…