HAILING FROM the land of Urmuz and Ionesco, Corneliu Porumboiu, the director of 12:08 East of Bucharest, boasts that “we Romanians have, in a way, invented absurdity . . . or least we’ve made an art of it.” The tone of Porumboiu’s wry little satire, which won the Camera d’Or for best first film at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, shares enough with compatriot Cristi Puiu’s quasi-absurdist masterpiece of 2005, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu—world-weary humanism, dark humor, stylized verism, the unassuming capaciousness of a down-home comédie humaine—that the two directors have been enlisted as the twin standard-bearers for what critics have christened the Romanian New Wave. Though Puiu dismisses the purported movement as nothing more than a clutch of “desperate directors,” Bucharest and Lazarescu together prove that Romania’s may be the only instance of an Eastern European cinema that benefited
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