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2005 NYFF Films

Good Night, and Good Luck
Regular Lovers
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
L'Enfant (The Child)
The Squid and the Whale
I Am
Something Like Happiness
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
Tale of Cinema
Breakfast on Pluto
Through the Forest
The President's Last Bang
Who's Camus Anyway?
Three Times
Paradise Now
Tristram Shandy
The Sun
The Passenger
Cache (Hidden)
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
Cristi Puiu, Romania, 2005, 154 min.

Seeing Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise at the age of nineteen inspired Rumanian Cristi Puiu to become a filmmaker. He also admires Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales and plans a Bucharest series of tales of different kinds of love of humanity, of a man and a woman, for children, for success, among friends, and carnal love (one can't help thinking of Kiesloski's Dekalog) and this, paradoxically, is the first, a film about love of humanity. The director says ER is syndicated in Rumania: "When you watch the American show, there's movement in every direction, the choreography of the characters is amazing but I can't believe any of it." In Mr. Lazarescu Puiu does an ER, Rumanian style. There's movement in only one direction following sixty-something Lazarescu, a drinker with a sore belly and a terrible headache, on a Saturday night in Bucharest when there has been a bad bus accident, after he calls 911. Puiu throws out hints of profundity with names in the script like Lazarus, Virgil, Dante, Remus, and Angel; and the trek from hospital to hospital as Lazarescu's diagnosis changes and his condition worsens can be seen as a journey through a modern medical Hell. But the film didn't win the top prize in the 2005 Cannes "Un Certain Regard" category because of any tendentious generalizations. More likely it was for the way Puiu's attention to detail, his precise planning of dialogue and camera positions and the resulting sense of documentary accuracy to the action make the film compulsively watchable from first to last -- an experience that comes alive as ER never could. If the five other Puiu Bucharest tales are as good as this, he may emerge as one of the best filmmakers of this new century.  (Chris Knipp)

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