THE TOP TEN: #4: The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
Cristi Puiu's elegaic, subtle journey through the Romanian hospital system has been praised by virtually everyone whose seen it (and they are not enough! Go, go!), and it's really hard to add to that praise in any constructive way. Suffice to say this two and a half hours both feels it and doesn't- it's certainly a superbly paced film, carrying you along with the trials of titular character Mr Lazarescu, whose complaints don't seem to be too great at first, but after waiting for a while for an ambulance, he's bad enough to need the hospital- and so begins an unwanted tour of several hospitals, with disenchanted and rather reluctant ambulance worker Luminita Gheorghiu shuttling him around and inevitably becoming more devoted to his cause. Some people call Mr. Lazarescu a black comedy, but I don't really see that: it is, perhaps, ironic, but there's not really any laughs here- more an advancing sense of disbelief. The superb long takes add to the realistic, humanist feel that the superbly crafted screenplay has already built up, and Mr. Lazarescu emerges as one of the least outwardly attached but most intimately affecting films of the year.