The Death of Mr. Lazarescu

Rarely has trusting one's life to health professionals seemed deadlier than in this sardonic Romanian comédie humaine that's already won over thirty international prizes and been called “the most remarkable film of the year” by the Village Voice. Living alone with his cats and his alcohol, the elderly Dante Lazarescu experiences chest pain, and calls, then waits, and waits, for an ambulance. So begins a long night's journey through medical purgatory, in which our hapless protagonist is alternately harangued, mocked, and (worst of all for a dying man) ignored by those supposedly trying to save his life. Reminiscent of the fly-on-the-wall observation of Frederick Wiseman and John Cassavetes' nuanced awareness of how people talk to one another (or fail to), the film's quasidocumentary aesthetic creates a realistic world made all the more believable through impeccably detailed dialogue and a brilliant cast, not to mention current fears that those in power, whether in the medical profession or elsewhere, have forgotten about those whose lives depend on them.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is repeated on Sunday, July 16.

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