Screened as part of NZIFF 2006
It’s sometimes the case that the greatest movies are the hardest ones to persuade an audience to see, and this truly great movie is surely one of them. But if you don’t believe that a Romanian drama about a 63-year-old drunk trying to obtain the medical attention he’s convinced he needs could be the year’s most mesmerising, suspenseful, darkly funny, shrewdly humane and spiritually challenging movie, then it can only be because you have not yet seen The Death of Mr Lazarescu. The director and co-writer, 38-year-old ex-painter Cristi Puiu, describes himself as a chronic hypochondriac – which only partly explains the conviction with which he draws us into intense identification with his ailing protagonist. Mr L begins the film trying to persuade his neighbours that he is seriously ill, and spends its duration exhausting his diminishing powers in futile exchanges with a panoply of blasé doctors and overworked hospital staff; only the dogged paramedic who accompanies him shows any concern. If his pain does not seem to warrant their attention, it’s amazing what does: in this richly populated movie every nurse, orderly, doctor, patient registers as a vivid original with stuff on his or her mind. Puiu’s spectacle of life going on is as daunting in its heedless inexorability as death itself. Magnificent.
“Lazarescu is an extraordinary film, an acerbic but compassionate social satire masquerading as handheld realism. It suggests ER rewritten by Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett.” — Tom Charity, Vancouver Sun
"A heartbreakingly powerful masterpiece that affected me far more deeply than any other film I've seen all year." — Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor