"Shadows present, foreshadowing deeper shadows to come." -- Herman Melville
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June 28, 2006
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
Romania 2005, Directed by Cristi Puiu
Written by Cristi Puiu and Razvan Radulescu
(****) of four
Mr. Dante Remus Lazarescu is in his mid-60s and lives a quiet life alone with his cats in a squalid apartment in Bucharest. After suffering increasingly painful headaches and throwing up intermittently over a few days, he worries his condition is getting serious and decides to call an ambulence. Thus begins Lazarescu's grim journey into an Inferno of spiteful doctors, uncaring nurses, and dehumanizing bureaucracy set in a Kafkaesque midnight urban sprawl. Puiu's subtle, cinema verite direction strips all artifice and dramatization from Lazarescu's slow decline. There are no swelling musical cues when he's shoved from one hospital to another, no hamfisted attempts at fleshing out his backstory, allowing Lazarescu to become an unwitting Everyman trapped by a apathetic medical establishment where he's only a mild afterthought. The posters bill it as a comedy, but its humor is pitch-black at best and deepens into profound sadness at how our mortality stands in the face of a society that refuses to slow down for those falling behind. Over the long 148-minute running time, we watch as Lazarescu's mental state slowly slips away until we reach the cold, bitter finality of the film's closing shot. A powerful and, ultimately, very sad experience.