Movie review: 'The Death of Mr. Lazarescu'

  • Updated: June 15, 2006 - 1:55 PM

A hypochondriac's worst nightmare, this pitch-black comedy traces the downward spiral of 63-year-old ulcer sufferer Dante Lazarescu through the hell of Bucharest's health care system. The ailing pensioner is solidly played by Ion Fiscuteanu, declining from spiky independence to vegetative helplessness. Passed from neighbors to hospital and doctor to doctor like a hot potato, the unconscious, incontinent Lazarescu is a problem no one wants to deal with.

The neighbors say he vomited blood," an ambulance attendant tells a can't-be-bothered doctor. "Could be tomato skins," he replies. The real disease he faces is bureaucratic arrogance, and it's terminal. Director Cristi Puiu maintains a strong current of suspense about the outcome -- despite the title, will this Lazarus be revived? --- and a bracingly cynical sense of humor that rescues the material from being a total downer. The film was a major prizewinner at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, and deservedly so. (4814 Chicago Av., Mpls. 612-822-3030.)


**** out of four stars

Unrated, in Romanian with English subtitles.

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