Introduction by past NYFF Selection Committee member Phillip Lopate on September 2!
The film that ignited the much-discussed Romanian New Wave, Cristi Puiu’s extraordinary second feature traces the odyssey of one Dante Remus Lazarescu as he journeys through a public health system that closely resembles the nine circles of hell. It begins when the elderly. Lazarescu (the great Romanian stage actor Ion Fiscuteanu) feels unwell and calls for an ambulance, which never comes. So he calls again, and waits some more, until finally the paramedics arrive—and the real trouble begins. As the night wears on and his condition deteriorates, alone but for the kindness of the occasional stranger (like the ambulance nurse Mioara, brilliantly played by Luminiţa Gheorghiu), he journeys from hospital to hospital, encountering overcrowded emergency rooms and overly officious physicians and discovering that all patients, regardless of what ails them, are uniformly bandaged up in red tape. Striking a delicate balance between gripping medical thriller and scabrous institutional satire, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is ultimately an absurdly funny and unbearably tragic snapshot of the human condition.
“This sardonic, darkly humorous, compulsively vibrant feature seems so realistic and convincing, unfolding as though in real time, that it’s hard to believe it was acted.” —NYFF 43 program note
“The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is raw, melancholy and unflinching, but it is also lyrical, funny and, perhaps paradoxically, full of life. And though the wobbling camera and the use of unflattering available light create an atmosphere of tough, unadorned naturalism, the film is also, on closer inspection, a remarkably artful piece of work, with a strong, unpredictable story, rigorous camera work and powerfully understated performances.” —A.O. Scott, The New York Times
Images courtesy of MANDRAGORA MOVIES / THE KOBAL COLLECTION