Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania; 154 min.)

directed by: Cristi Puiu
starring: Ion Fiscuteanu, Monica Barladeanu, Doru Ana
Moartea domnului Lazarescu
Bruce says: "Dante Remus Lazarescu (Ion Fiscuteanu) wakes up one morning with a splitting headache and severe nausea. A widower for ten years, he is now alone since his daughter has left Romania, emigrating to Canada. Living with three cats he is unkempt and his apartment is untidy and not too clean. Most of his pleasure is derived from alcohol.

"Lazarescu feels progressively worse and calls for an ambulance. It is Saturday and there has been a huge accident involving a truck and a bus of tourists. When Mr. Lazarescu knocks on the door of his neighbors Sandu (Doru Ana) and Mariana (Monica Barladeanu) across the hall, they notice he is having trouble standing up and help him back to his living room. He throws up on himself. Both Sandu and Mariana comment on his alcoholic stench. Mr. Lazarescu repeats 'I drink at my own expense.'

"When the paramedics Leo and Marioara (Mirela Cioaba) finally show up hours later, Mr. Lazarescu is taken to the nearest emergency room. Overburdened by accident victims the doctors dismiss Lazarescu as a pitiful alcoholic. He is sent to another hospital for liver scan. En route it is cold and Mr. Lazarescu wets himself adding the smell of urine to his body odor, the smell of vomit, and his alcoholic stench. At the second hospital Mr. Lazarescu is treated poorly but, with the help of a technician friend of Marioana’s, he is sent to x-ray for a head and liver scan. Pictures indicate he has a subdureal hematoma (a brain hemorrhage). Surgery is jammed with accident victims and he is sent to a third hospital where the doctors are distracted by personal matters and not at all interested in treating a man as disgusting as Lazarescu. To Marioana they are patronizing and rude. They acknowledge the urgency of the situation but refuse to perform surgery without Lazarescu signing a consent form. By this time he is partially comatose and incoherent to the point of not being able to complete a sentence. The paramedics finally shuffle off to a fourth hospital where Lazarescu is prepped for surgery and dies while awaiting transport to the operating room.

"Throughout this 2 ½ hour ordeal we get more than a glimpse of Romanian culture and class structure. We hear constant background bantering on mundane subjects – talk of work, astrology, marriages, weddings, divorce, children, flowers and the ever–present TV and radio coverage of the bus accident. With all this buzz around him Lazarescu dies like a swatted fly, nothing more than an annoying pest. It is difficult to feel sorry for him because there is nothing about him that is vaguely likable. Marioana is the only person in the film with a true sense of humanity. She has a profound sense of professionalism and a decent heart. 3 cats"

Chris says: "One of the most widely acclaimed films of the year is a 150-minute tale of a Romanian man slowly dying as he's shuffled through the country's monstrously bureaucratic health care system. You can see why it sat on my shelf for nearly three months before I got around to watching it. I can see the film's allure, though I'm sorry to say the critics have overrated it somewhat. I would've shaved off most of the first 45 minutes which consist of the title character in his apartment, getting sick, waiting, waiting, waiting for an ambulance. The film takes off once he's on his way to the first of many hospitals, aided by a dedicated, if not entirely sympathetic nurse (the superb Luminita Gheorghiu). Like a Bresson film but with exceedingly dark, satirical humor, LAZARESCU is a telling, biting critique, but it could've been much tighter. 3.5 cats"