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The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
Cristi Puiu's multiple award-winning drama about a seriously ill man caught in an absurdist bureaucratic nightmare over the course of one night.
Director: Cristi Puiu
Cristi Puiu's multiple award-winning second feature blazed a trail from its rapturously received Cannes premiere in 2005, kickstarting a new wave of piercing Romanian cinema. Mr Lazarescu is a 63-year-old widower who shares his apartment with his three cats. Suffering from pains in his head and his stomach, he calls for an ambulance, and whilst he's waiting he asks his neighbours for some pills. They try to help, though they disapprove of his drinking and the state of his flat. Finally the medics arrive to take him to hospital, an even more difficult task than usual as a bus accident has the local services at full stretch. As the night wears on, Mr Lazarescu is shuttled from pillar to post, growing ever wearier and weaker in the face of the medical profession's bureaucracy and casual inefficiency.
With colourful and recognisable characters uttering wonderful turns of phrase, the fundamental seriousness of the film's theme is judiciously leavened with a good deal of dry humour (Puiu claims to be something of a hypochondriac himself, and he and co-writer Razvan Radalescu certainly seem to have an insider's knowledge of the medical world). The film's mastery of cinema and deep seated humanity have already prompted comparisons with everyone from Cassavetes to Mike Leigh and Frederick Wiseman, but Puiu is very much his own man, and his film is unmissable.