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European-American Topics - Cinema - Lazarescu

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu

By Jérôme Patoux
posted July 28, 2006


In the 1990s, a new genre of eastern European cinema conquered western movie theaters in the form of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s darkly realistic movies, first the Decalogue series, then the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge trilogy. Our eyes suddenly opened to the reality of crumbling societies fighting the shadows of their soviet past, yet yearning to leap into the twenty-first century. Several directors have followed in Kieslowski’s steps, each fascinated by their particular country, all sharing the same affection for humanity. Cristi Puiu (Romania) is one of them, and his movie The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is a beautiful allegory of fraternal love, solidarity, (or absence thereof), and the fight for respect and dignity in the face of incapacitating sickness, and ultimately death.

When Mr. Lazarescu is suddenly struck by pain in the middle of his shabby apartment, he has no choice but to surrender to his neighbors, and later to a nurse who will go to great lengths to ensure that he receive proper care. As he is driven from hospital to hospital, and rolled from one emergency room to the next, he becomes the subject of contradictory diagnoses, the silent object of tedious bureaucratic negotiations with the administration, and the spark of endless arguments between medical staff that reveal the incapacity of the Romanian society, hear mankind, to take care of its own. By patiently following his decaying Lazarus, Cristi Puiu transforms a gruesome odyssey on the night streets of Bucharest into a powerful modern tragedy that transcends its location and time to question our own humanity.







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