Death of Mr. Lazarescu
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Mr. Lazarescu, a 63 year old lonely man feels sick and calls the ambulance. When it arrives, the paramedic decides he should take him to the hospital but once there they decide to send him to another hospital and then yet another... As the night unfolds and they can't find a hospital for Mr. Lazarescu, his health starts to deteriorate fast. Stars: Ion Fiscuteanu, Luminita Gheorghiu, Doru Ana
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Top Customer Reviews
Although being billed as a black comedy, what you have is closer to tragedy. You're watching the dehumanisation of the man next door. You're watching as this apparently normal ageing man is mocked, disrespected and disregarded from hospital to hospital, by doctors, nurses...they don't care that this man may be dying or that he may be in pain, they really don't care. What's that tell you? The importance of this film lies in the way it makes us more human. You swallow back disgust for yourself and others, you die side by side with Lazarescu, and you're reborn the better for it.
The Death of Mr Lazarescu is, to use a well-deserved cliché, a labour of love. The script, the acting, the ideas, the timing, the lighting, the angles - it all works. And no amount of art-house awards or Oscar ignorance can take away the impact that this masterful composition has. Is Puiu the next Kieslowski? Will the rest of the films in the series be as great? Can an intelligent filmmaker reach out to the general public? We'll see.
Bogdan Tiganov - author of Romanian For Sale and the soon to be released The Wooden Tongue Speaks Romanians: Contradictions & Realities
It is one of the best Europeean films.
But, I don't think everybody can understand its message.
Anyway everybody loving special movies should watch it!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The Romanian film "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" is a 147-minute fictional drama that plays out almost entirely in what documentary filmmakers like to refer to as "real time." Lazarescu is a 62-year-old widower who lives with his three beloved cats in a rundown apartment in Bucharest. Even though he had an operation for a stomach ulcer 14 years earlier, Lazarescu still drinks excessively, perhaps as a means of assuaging his loneliness or perhaps because he is simply an alcoholic. As the movie begins, Lazarescu is suffering from a severe headache, stomach pains and vomiting, so he calls for an ambulance to come and take him to the hospital. The movie is a slice-of-life chronicle of that trip.
This is all the "story" director Cristi Puiu provides us with as we see Lazarescu being shuffled from one hospital and emergency room to another by a compassionate middle-aged paramedic named Mioara. Puiu clearly has some sharp things to say about the care - or in some cases, LACK of care - Lazarescu receives at the hands of a medical system that is overstretched and undermanned, filled with doctors who are often petty and ill-tempered towards not only their patients but even the paramedics whom the doctors perceive as being clearly "beneath" them in training and knowledge (the irony is that Mioara is more accurate in her diagnosis of the patient than a number of the doctors who examine him). However, Puiu also shows us doctors and nurses who perform their jobs admirably and treat the ill with kindness. Actually, the best thing about "The Death of Lazarescu" is that it observes without judgment. We really feel as if we are seeing life unfolding in front of us without so much as a trace of phoniness, melodramatics or theatricality to dilute the vision. The scenes come off as totally spontaneous and unscripted, as the director (along with co-writer Razvan Radulescu) chronicles the lives of these various people whose paths just happen to cross on this one hectic Saturday night in Bucharest. With the use of a handheld camera to record the action, Puiu makes us feel as if we ourselves are along for the ride, being afforded this rare, behind-the-scenes glimpse into not only this medical drama but the countless little truths about human behavior Puiu reveals along the way.
The film would not be the tremendous success it is were it not for the extraordinary performances from each and every member of its amazing cast, from Ion Fiscuteanu as Lazarescu to Luminta Gheorghiu as the paramedic, to all the various men and women who appear on screen as neighbors, doctors, nurses, drivers, technicians etc. Their performances are all so unmannered and lifelike that you would swear you were watching a documentary feature rather than a fictional narrative. Fiscuteanu, in particular, delivers a tour-de-force turn here as a man fighting not only the ravages of illness and pain, but the indignities that come along with being passively bandied about among various doctors and hospitals and being subjected to withering comments from medical personnel resentful of having to "fix" someone whose problems all seemingly stem from alcoholism (this attitude actually leads to a careless misdiagnosis on the part of one of the doctors).
The film clearly doesn`t sugarcoat reality but neither does it make it appear worse than it actually is, which is often the case with movies that try to capture life "in the raw" as it were. "The Death of Lazarescu" manages to capture life's rawness without resorting to the kind of excessive narcissism or hyperbole that lesser artists would have used.
And that is the triumph of "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu." It draws us so deeply into its world and makes us so familiar with the people who inhabit it that we don't really feel as if we are watching a movie at all. Rarely have 147 minutes passed so quickly.
This is pretty much the set-up to Cristi Puiu's "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu". And the title gives away the ending, so, we are only left with the middle.
"The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" is one of the first, if not the first Romanian film to receive huge international fame and actually be released in America in recent times.
Ever since the fall of Communism in Romania the country has struggled trying to find its voice. Strickly speaking about their films (we won't even dwell in their politics) they seem to be drawn towards dark, cynical comedies that they think will appeal to western audience (namely Americans). But, Romanian humor is hard for Americans to digest. Most people do not understand our Eastern European humor. Because of this these films have either, not been released in this country or have not gained much cross-over audience appeal.
The solution, of course, is easy. Romanians have to make films that are personal to them, not worry about what will appeal to Westerns. Now that Communism is over, why not make films dealing with life under its rule? Romanians could make human drama dealing with people and how life has changed since Communism's fall. Some films have attempted to do this, but with that dark humor. If Americans are familiar with Romanian films, there is a pretty good chance it is through the films of Lucian Pintilie and "The Oak", which dealt with the very subject of old world Romania meeting new world Romania.
What all of this has to do with this film is "Lazarescu" is at least addressing a "Romanian" problem, but, it has universal appeal. See, if you stick to what you know, others will not only follow, but relate.
The film has a pretty unusually style that American audiences might have a hard time getting adjusted to. The movie was shot primarily with a hand held camera. Why? One could say, well, it's because Romanians have no money and this is the cheapest way to make a film. I'm not sure that's the real reason. I think Puiu wanted the film to be shot this way because he wanted us to feel we are watching a documentary. We are suppose to think of this in terms of being real. Situations such as this really do happen all over the world.
Much of the dialogue is terribly cynical. I didn't find the dialogue particularly funny, but, the situations were humorous. At time I started to wonder though, can it really be true? Can this really be the way doctors talk to their patients?
So much of the film feels true. We are really going along on this man's journey as hospital after hospital refuses to keep the man and find out exactly what is wrong with him.
I think the film also goes beyond just being a satire of Romania's health care system. It is also an attack on bureaucracy. The red tape government officials make us go through.
Director Cristi Puiu says this will be the first of a series of films he plans on calling "stories from suburbs of Bucharest". There will be six in total as Puiu says he was inspired by Eric Rohmer's "six moral tales". In his own words he says the film is about man's regard towards his fellow man. Hopefully with the success of this film, which has won awards at various international film festivals including; Cannes, Norwegian, Transilvania, Independent Spirit Awards and in Chicago, we will see the five other stories in the series.
Bottom-line: Very dark and cynical look not just at Romania's health care system but also a satire on bureaucracy. Director Puiu's debut film carries a nice pace to it by managing to really engage the audience due to the simplicity of the story and the human involvement the actors bring to their roles.
Romania. Sometimes tragic-comic, bitter and accurate, sad and funny, the movie brings a realisticly rude
picture of the faulty medical care in the Romanian hospitals. The director captured perfectly the atmosphere
in the ER, ambulances and the encounter with the medical staff. Excelently acted!
When, at the end of a film, you are pounding on things, throwing things across the room, and yelling how you're going to fly across the ocean and strangle the director, there is one inescapable conclusion to be reached: that film has done its job, and admirably. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu does just that, though there is nothing at all admirable about the film itself; that is one of the sources of its power.
Lazarescu (Ion Fiscuteanu) is a sixty-two-year-old widower living in squalor with three cats. He gets up one morning with a headache, to which a stomachache is later added. Self-medication doesn't work, so he calls the hospital and asks them to send an ambulance. Thus begins a six-hour trip through the Romanian socialized health system that is absurd, outrageous, and all too plausible. Things are complicated by a massive bus crash that has every ER in Bucharest overflowing. Lazarescu's only champion is Mioara (Code Inconnu's Luminita Gheorghiou), the paramedic who originally came to pick him up.
It is all too easy to fall into identifying with Lazarescu and Mioara here, and Puiu has certainly given us some characters who embody everything that is horrible about medical care; I can't imagine anyone watching this movie and not watching to perform some amateur brain surgery on a couple of these doctors. I'm not sure, however, that that was the entirety of Puiu's intention here. If he's wanted to create a one-dimensional screed against the Romanian health care system, he'd have made it, well, a lot more one-dimensional. Instead, there are a number of health care workers here (Mioara is the most notable, but a number of the others are also praiseworthy) who, despite various levels of stress and exhaustion, do their best to make sure that Lazarescu gets the treatment he needs. While, ultimately, none of them are successful (and this is not a spoiler; the title of the film tells you all you need to know, doesn't it?), a number of them try. There's a lot more under the hood here than one might expect, given most reviews of the film to date. Matters are made worse by the ephemerality of the relationships everyone in the film, save Mioara, have with Lazarescu; none of the others is with him long enough to get a decent idea of his condition. We see him sliding further and further into dementia; the medical professionals, to a person, put it down to his being drunk. (And judging by the recipe for the alcohol he's been drinking given to Mioara by Lazarescu's neighbor at the beginning of the film, that's not entirely surprising.) The film is as frustrating for the fact that the viewer can understand the positions of both sides as it is for the horrendous way in which Lazarescu is treated.
I have to say that if this is an example of a Romanian comedy, I'd hate to see what they produce as a tearjerker. I've never seen a comedy this bleak. However, it's also the case that few comedies I've seen are anywhere near as compelling. I'll add my voice to the ever-growing pile recommending this film with all our collective heart. **** ½
I am not sure how the jury at Cannes was able to relate to the craftsmanship of Cristi Puiu; the reality of the hospitals and human relations in the health-care system in Romania is superbly depicted in this film. Although a feature film, it could pass as a documentary, which speaks volumes for the ability of the director and actors. When art reigns supreme, life and art are impossible to be separated.