Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania / 2005)

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Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania / 2005)

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Sep 27, 2006 2:31 am

*A 2006 U.S. Release*

The first of six Rohmers "Moral Tales"-inspired stories from the suburbs of Bucharest, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Moartea Domnului Lazarescu) is a riveting and awe-inspiringly realistic effort from Romanian director Cristi Puiu (Stuff and Dough [2001]).

The film accounts the final travails of Dante Remus Lazarescu (Ion Fiscuteanu), a nearly-63-year-old drunken widower who lives alone in a squalid, cat-infested apartment. A former engineer who once went under the knife due to a stomach ulcer, Lazarescu calls for an ambulance early on in the film after experiencing head and stomach aches. After a third call, made by his cautiously accommodating neighbor, help finally arrives in the shape of a caring middle-aged nurse, Mioara (Luminita Gheorghiu), who eventually ends up taking the grumpy-old-man with her for further diagnosis.

Shot hand-held, cinma-vrit style, the film continually grows in immediacy as -- for the next few hours -- a worsening Mr. Lazarescu is shuttled from one hospital to another due to a variety of contributing factors, such as his temper and personal hygiene, disagreeable and over-worked medical personnel, a deadly bus accident causing havoc in emergency facilities, etc. (In some ways, this film is a reflection of the fact that in the 15 years since the end of Nicolae Ceausescu's brutal rgime, Romania hasn't made much progress on the socio-economic front.)

While the subject matter was ripe for it, the film never develops into an early-Haneke-esque excoriation of humanity; instead, with its vivid and complex individual portrayals, it becomes a palpably honest representation of it. Indeed, no matter how absurd certain situations threaten to become (thats where the film draws most of its black humor from), Puius tone thoroughly and efficiently remains grounded in realism. (The film certainly brings to mind the work of Frederick Wiseman, even though it features actors who mouth scripted lines of dialogue. While the presence of Cassavetes, Puius favorite filmmaker, is felt via the director's formal apparatus.)

By underplaying the push-pull dynamics of human emotions, Puiu tries to get to something deeper and more important: mortality. And as if the viewers didnt already have enough to mull over, Puiu adds another layer to the film in the form of allegorical character names -- Dante, Virgil, Beatrice, etc. -- though, like the rest of the proceedings, theyre rendered without exclamation points. But that won't stop me: The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is one of the best films of the year.

Grade: A-

*The film premiered at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard).

*Now available on DVD in the U.S. (Tartan). Extra Features include an informative interview with the filmmaker. Tartan's U.K. DVD will be released on October 23rd.

Re: Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania / 2005)

Postby A » Tue Oct 10, 2006 4:24 pm

Ever since I read an euphoric article on the film in a german magazine last year, I've wanted to see it. But no german distributor has picked it up, yet.

Re: Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania / 2005)

Postby trevor826 » Tue Oct 31, 2006 1:19 am

All I can add is that I'm in total agreement with arsaib4's comments, apart from that I can also say it brought back memories of when as an 18 year old I spent a while working in an A&E department in a hospital. Unfortunately for the national health in the UK it also brings up many recent revelations of ambulances turning up very late for emergency calls and elderly patients being left on trollies in hospital corridors, sometimes for 12 hrs+ due to a lack of bed spaces.

Great film, bleak but honest and a must see in my opinion. Not neccessarily one you would want to own but one you really should make the effort to see.

Cheers Trev.

P.S. The running time approaches 2.5 hrs but I couldn't believe how the time just flew by, a positive sign by any standards.

Re: Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania / 2005)

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Oct 31, 2006 1:55 am

I'm glad you liked it. I found it hard to believe that the hospital scenes were choreographed with actors; they felt so real. (While I haven't spent much time in hospitals as a patient, I'm well familiar with the milieu because there are quite a few doctors in my family.) The film obviously presents an extreme case, but one that could still transpire anywhere.

Re: Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania / 2005)

Postby howardschumann(d) » Tue Dec 12, 2006 7:41 am

THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU (Moartea domnului Lazarescu)

Directed by Cristi Puiu (2005)

Dante Remus Lazarescu (Ion Fiscuteanu), a 62-year old retired engineer, is brought to an emergency room by ambulance complaining of stomach and head pains. It is a night in which Bucharests hospitals are filled with survivors from a bus accident. Berated by haughty professionals for not taking good care of himself, Lazarescu is shunted from hospital to hospital as we watch his condition slowly deteriorate. Romanian director Cristi Puius Kafkaesque masterpiece, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu dramatizes the deplorable conditions in Bucharests emergency rooms where overworked and underpaid health care workers show callous indifference to their patients instead of concern and compassion. Filled with gallows humor and a profound awareness of the human condition, Lazarescu is one of the most affecting films of the year.

Since his wife died eight years ago and his married daughter Bianca moved to Toronto, Canada, Lazarescu has lived alone in a small, dirty apartment in Bucharest, Romania. His only companions are three flea-bitten cats and a suspicious home grown brew called Mastropol. When he starts to feel pain in his stomach and his temples, he ascribes it to a reaction to the ulcer surgery he had fourteen years ago and takes aspirin and other painkillers such as Diclofenac but they only cause him to vomit. Seeking the help of neighbors Miki and Sandu Sterian (Dana Dogaru, Doru Ana), he gets only a lecture on his drinking habits, the smell of his apartment, and an offer to eat some leftover Moussaka.

When he begins to vomit blood, however, he calls for an ambulance but it takes more than a half hour to arrive. Weakened by his illness, he falls into his bathtub. When 52-year old nurse Mioara Avram (Luminta Gheorghiu) finally shows up, her lack of personal concern is palpable. She too blames his illness on the alcohol she smells on his breath but, after examining him, suspects that he has colon cancer and asks the Sterians to accompany him to the hospital but both refuse. During the long night that follows, however, she remains with him and is the closest thing he has to a friend. Lazarescu is taken to a series of hospitals but is callously dismissed as an old drunk by doctors and hospital staff who are exhausted after a night of treating victims of the bus crash.

One young doctor asks him, Did I put the bottle in your hand, you pig? Another offers the idea that his liver is as big as the parliament house. When the patient tells a surgeon his head hurts, the surgeon gives the patient a pat on the head and exclaims: Good, it means you have one! The film has been called a black comedy but the situations we see are more absurd than comedic. Doctors and nurses chat about irrelevancies such as a cell phone that will not charge and argue with the paramedic who brought him as to priorities and who has the highest authority.

As the old man who the doctors arrogantly call pops is given one test after another, we are silent witnesses to his inevitable decline. We want to scream at the screen as Lazarescus gradually loses his ability to walk and to control his bladder but we know that his fate has been sealed. Finally at 4:00 am, after being prepped for surgery to relieve a blood clot on his brain, a surgery that should have taken place hours before, Lazarescu sinks into incoherence and finally unconsciousness. As he goes gently into that good night, we alone are left to rage against the dying of the light. Like the dying priest in Bernanos' Diary of a Country Priest, we learn again what it means to be human and we know that the meek will inherit the earth.


Re: Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania / 2005)

Postby wpqx » Thu Dec 28, 2006 9:56 pm

I once met someone who was Romanian by descent in an International Film Class. I scratched my head and finally gave up when she asked me for any good Romanian films she should check out. Looking at the history of this small nation, there really aren't a whole hell of a lot of noteworthy pictures to come from there. Puiu's film is perhaps the picture that will change that. A one film national cinema movement, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu has been popping up on film lists gallore this year, and the DVD has garnered enough attention on its own. The style of the film recalls so many comedy of beurocracy films from the past, and you can't help but feel frustrated at the red tape that never seems to end. I may not cite the film as a masterpiece, but as far as an introduction to Romanian cinema, I'd consider myself lucky to start here.

Re: Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania / 2005)

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Dec 29, 2006 7:27 am

Another Romanian film which has garnered some attention recently (I'm being modest here, the film won the 2006 Camera d'Or!) is Corneliu Porumboiu's 12:08 East of Bucharest. It's scheduled to be released in the U.S. next year.

Re: Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania / 2005)

Postby wpqx » Fri Dec 29, 2006 9:40 am

I'll keep an eye out for it.

Re: Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania / 2005)

Postby A » Thu Jan 04, 2007 10:13 pm

Another good Romanian film is Visul lui Liviu "Liviu`s Dream" (2004), which I saw at the Berlin Film Festival and recently taped from TV. It`s a short by Corneliu Porumboiu (the one who has recently won a Camera d`or), clocking in at 40 minutes.
After the Berlinale screening I thanked the director for his film, and told him that I was anticipating his next. He seemed genuinely pleased, as the reaction of the public to his film was lukewarm, and the discussion that followed the screening was pretty pointless. Many viewers where asking similar questions about what the film meant, and it was obvious that only few people are aware of what is going on in the former eastern bloc countries.

But still no Lazarescu for me, though I happen to know many Romanians.

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