The Death of Mr. Lazarescu

Rated R 2006

If there's a tougher sell than a Romanian movie by an unknown director, it's a Romanian movie by an unknown director that takes two and a half hours to tell the tale of a 62-year-old pensioner's final trip to the hospital. The second feature by ex-painter Cristi Puiu is an ode to mortality, albeit not without a certain grim humor. Retired engineer Dante Lazarescu (Ion Fiscuteanu) wakes with an unfamiliar headache and a bad stomach, and, following a day of futile self-medication, calls the local equivalent of 911. After 45 minutes (film time), the ambulance arrives, and from the limbo of his squalid flat, our Dante enters the first circle of hell. For the remainder of the movie, he will be transported from hospital to hospital, to be variously diagnosed, ignored, browbeaten, humiliated, and finally processed by a harried succession of brilliantly acted doctors and nurses. Puiu claims his inspiration was ER; of course, that show manages to successfully resolve three or four cases each week, and The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, well . . .

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