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The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
The Death of Mr Lazarescu
Actors: Doru Ana, Ion Fiscuteanu, Monica Barladeanu, Alina Berzunteanu, Doru Boguta
Director: Cristi Puiu
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
R     2006     2hr 30min

After mr. Lazarescu suffers terrible headaches he finally calls for an ambulance. Accompanied by medic mioara lazarescu begins his night-long journey through a variety of hospitals in search of proper medical care while a ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Doru Ana, Ion Fiscuteanu, Monica Barladeanu, Alina Berzunteanu, Doru Boguta
Director: Cristi Puiu
Creators: Andrei Butica, Oleg Mutu, Cristi Puiu, Alexandru Munteanu, Anca Puiu, Bobby Paunescu, Razvan Radulescu
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Tartan Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 09/12/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2005
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 2hr 30min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 13
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: Romanian
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Reality come to life on screen
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 01/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)


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."
Is There A Doctor In The House?
Alex Udvary | chicago, il United States | 09/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Poor Mr. Lazarescu. His head has been aching all day, he's been vomitting and yet no one will help him. He's called the ambulance twice, and it has taken forever for it to arrive. He's even visited his neighbors to ask them if they have any painkillers, but, they seem a little annoyed. Not to mention his brother-in-law is hounding him about money he owes him.

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."
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
Aneta Tudor | California, USA | 01/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The movie is a powerful, insightful description of the corrupt health system in the today ex-comunist
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!
***** rate.
Getting the Run-Around in ERs ...
Erika Borsos | Gulf Coast of FL, USA | 07/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Mr. Lazarescu is an elderly man living in a rather messy apartment with several cats in Bucharest, Romania. He has some health problems and seeks the help of neighbors whose suggestions do not improve his condition. His only daughter emigrated to Canada, so she is too far away to help. It takes some convincing on his part via the phone to get the ambulance to come but they eventually understand his needs. The female ambulance worker shows some compassion, examines him and takes him to the nearest hospital.

Unfortunately, there was a multi-car crash involving a bus on the freeway and many accident victims are taken to the emergency rooms (ERs) of nearby hospitals. The ER was packed and very busy. Mr. Lazarescu gets a quick exam but what he really ends up with is a lecture to stop drinking and he would get better. The ambulance personnel realize he is in pain and needs help ... so they take him to the next hospital. At the next facility, the personnell, both MDs, nurses, and technicians are rather indifferent and treat the female ambulance worker rather shabbily. Eventually, they do a somewhat better exam and agree on a diagnosis. They recommend a CT scan which can not be done in their facility because they do not have the equipment. They are given the necessary paperwork and move on to a third hospital. At this better equipped hospital, Mr. Lazarescu gets his tests not because he *should* nor because it is the right thing to do but *only* because the female ambulance worker has some "pull". She knows one of the healthcare workers who arranges for the test to be done immediatly.

A CT scan of the head is done showing he has a serious problem ... the matter is urgent. The physician tries to talk Mr. Lazarescu into having surgery. With much difficulty, they end up convincing him to sign the surgical permit/operating consent. There is no effort made to notify the next of kin or get their permission. It does not seem to matter that Mr. Lazarescu has no understanding of his condition nor is he aware of what he agreed to. Some OR technicians indifferently prepare him for surgery ...

The film reveals the failures of a socialized healthcare system via dark humor. It shows how inhumane, cold and uncaring people can be who have no sense of responsibility or accountability to the patient. Mr. Lazarescu is not given respect or shown compassion. The indifference to his plight is appalling. No one seems sensitive to his healthcare problems except the female ambulance worker. It seemed like a camera crew was filming the the true and actual events in the life of this man. The acting was superb by the main characters as well as by all the healthcare workers. The film is a huge success because one can see the insensitivity, the lack of guilt, the self-absorption of the healthcare workers and unfortunately these attitudes *can* develop in any healthcare system, not just in the socialized type. While the shuttling of Mr. Lazarescu from one hospital ER to the next would *not* occur in the U.S.A. due to EMTALA laws, the fact is under *any* healthcare system the care of the elderly patients can suffer and erode into indifference. While I hope the film is exaggerating the truth, sadly one can see how something similar *can* happen to the elderly and helpless, who have no one looking out for their interests. Erika Borsos [pepper flower]"