Deadly cure

Pub date June 27, 2006
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

He may have the world’s largest collection of Kim Wilde posters on his apartment walls, but caterpillar-browed Mr. Lazarescu (Ion Fiscuteanu) is no kid in America: He’s an aging drunk in Romania with a ruined liver and a rupturing brain. And Bucharest on a Saturday night is no place to be when you’ve got the headache and stomachache from hell — in fact, its medical system is a many-leveled modern day approximation of exactly that infernal pit, which is probably why the first name of the title character in Christi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is Dante.
Overtly labeled an anti-ER by its maker, and about as far away from Superman Returns as you can get inside a movie theater this week, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu doesn’t exactly sound like fun: The film follows the booze-pickled Lazarescu out of his fleabag apartment as gruff but ultimately sympathetic paramedic Mioara (Luminita Gheorghiu) wheels this supposed GOMER — get out of my emergency room — from one hospital to another, while both are verbally abused by sluggish doctors and nurses. Yet Puiu’s movie is primarily a sharp and multifaceted black comedy, from slow-coder Lazarescu’s mouthiness early in the journey to the off-the-cuff yet detailed portraits of his eccentric neighbors and the successive “caregivers