Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2005 3:09 pm 
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ION FISCUTEANUL IN THE DEATH OF MR. LĂZĂRESCU

Shown at the New York Film Festival, October 2005. A Tartan Films release in the US, limited release scheduled for May 2006.

[Moartea domnului Lăzărescu, 2005]

A stunning evocation of real-time medical hell

Puiu was inspired at nineteen by Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise to become a filmmaker. He says ER is syndicated in Rumania: "When you watch the American show, there's movement in every direction, the choreography of the characters is amazing -- but I can't believe any of it." In Mr. Lăzărescu Puiu does an ER, Rumanian style. There's movement in only one direction -- following sixty-something Lazarescu, a drinker with a sore belly and a terrible headache, on a Saturday night in Bucharest when there has been a bad bus accident, after he calls 911. Puiu throws out hints of profundity with names in the script like Lazarus, Virgil, Dante, Remus, and Angel; and the trek from hospital to hospital as Lăzărescu's diagnosis changes and his condition worsens can be seen as a journey through Hell. But the film didn't win the Un Certain Regard top prize at Cannes this year because of any message. It's Puiu's attention to detail, the precise planning of dialogue and camera positions that gives a sense of documentary accuracy to the action and makes the film compulsively watchable and somehow unique and yet universal.

A splendid movie. Probably one of the top five selections of the New York Film Festival. There is much that can be said about it but really only one thing need be said: see it as soon as you can.

The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu, 150 mins., debuted at Cannes May 2005. Limited release UK, US, and other countries in 2006.

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