Chronicling the nightlong odyssey of ulcerous alcoholic Lazarescu (Ion Fiscuteanu) during which he journeys back and forth between Bucharest hospitals hoping to be cured of various fatal ailments, Cristi Puiu’s stunning The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is a prolonged, uncomfortable experience akin to sitting in a foreboding doctor’s office waiting room with a group of doomed patients. Positing a medical community beset by bureaucratic coldness, the film offers up snide practitioners who act inconvenienced by having to minister to the unwell, and one seriously sick man who, shuffled from one purgatorial ER hellhole to another, is forced to suffer endless indignities. With extended takes creating the impression that events are unfolding in real-time, Puiu’s conscientiously observed drama perspicaciously examines the Romanian medical care establishment, attitudes toward the ill and elderly, and societal (and individual) moral responsibility, and is only slightly undermined by a tad too much unrealistic pessimism – Lazarescu (his first name a variation on Lazarus) is treated so nastily by every medical worker he meets, one half expects his desecrated corpse to be literally dumped in the gutter by story’s conclusion. Yet through his blisteringly unsentimental (and at times bleakly funny) depiction of a profession in which selfishness, laziness, and apathetic disinterest breed abusive neglect, Puiu’s film nonetheless possesses a raw, focused outrage that’s difficult to shake.
(2005 New York Film Festival)