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THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU

Director: CRISTI PUIU

ROMANIA • 2005. SUBTITLED • COLOUR. DOLBY STEREO • 153 MIN.


THIS MESMERISING SECOND FEATURE FROM ROMANIAN DIRECTOR CRISTI PUIU WAS THE BIG DISCOVERY OF LAST YEAR’S CANNES FILM FESTIVAL, WHERE IT WON THE PRIX UN CERTAIN REGARD.
Mr. Lazarescu (Ion Fiscuteanu) is a 62-year-old widower who lives in a small Bucharest flat with his cats. An ordinary guy who doesn’t look after himself and drinks too much, he’s not in the best of health. Suffering from head and stomach pains, he enlists the help of his neighbours, who call for an ambulance. Thus begins the old man’s hellish journey towards death, as he’s shunted from pillar to post by a bureaucratic health service which is supposedly there to keep him alive. Although filmed in the style of a documentary, Puiu’s film is in
fact carefully scripted and choreographed. It never descends into a simple polemic, but instead presents a satisfyingly complex and often grimly humorous picture of a chaotic world where systems of communication can no longer cope with basic human needs. Lazarescu is unlucky to be taken ill on a night when a dreadful road accident has filled the city’s hospitals. Overworked and underpaid hospital staff have developed their own methods of coping, which makes them arrogant and short-tempered. The glowing exception is Miora (Luminita Gheorghiu), the medic who accompanies and assists Lazarescu as he’s subjected to contradictory diagnoses and hostile barbs. It is through Miora’s actions that we come to recognise the wider importance of Lazarescu’s destiny. In fact, though it appears to be about the fate of an unfortunate individual, Puiu’s epic study of human tragedy provides a devastating portrait of a universal malaise. —Peter Walsh.

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