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Death of Mr. Lazarescu by Cristi Puiu Wins Un Certain Regard

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu from Romanian director Cristi Puiu was awarded the Un Certain Regard-Fondation GAN Prize, bestowed by the Jury headed by American director Alexander Payne. This sort of road-movie in an ambulance follows the nighttime trip of 63-year-old Mr. Lazarescu, who is sick and living alone in an apartment with three cats. La Fondation GAN pour le Cinéma, in association with the Un Certain Regard section, awarded this prize worth 30,000 euros to the French distributor of the film.

The Un Certain Regard Jury also lauded Filmman by Alain Cavalier with the Prix de l'Intimité (Intimacy) and the Delwende (Lève-toi et Marche) by S. Pierre Yameogo with the Prix de l'Espoir (Hope). This year's edition of the Un Certain Regard section was dedicated to director Jacques Poitrenaud, who recently died at the age of 82.

Screening in Un Certain Regard, Moartea Domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) is Cristi Puiu's second feature-length film and the first chapter of a series entitled Six Histoires des Banlieues de Bucarest ("Six Stories from the Outskirts of Bucharest"). "Since I admire Eric Rohmer very much, explains the Romanian director, "I wanted to answer his Six Moral Tales. I will be telling love stories: love for one's fellow man, with Six Stories from the Outskirts of Bucharest - love between a man and a woman, love for your children, love of success, love between friends, and carnal love."

One evening, Mr. Lazarescu, who lives alone, feels a bit dizzy. He finally ends up being driven away in an ambulance, which is the start of a tragicomic odyssey. Each doctor who examines him arrives at an entirely different diagnosis, and his emergency treatment is incessantly postponed. The physicians are deaf to the entreaties of the patient and his friends, and are devoid of sympathy for the elderly Mr. Lazarescu as he again plunges into the Bucharest night.

Cristi Puiu describes his intentions: "Mr. Lazarescu speaks about a world where love for our fellow man deosn't exist, about someone whose need for help is ignored by all round him... Learning the truth about a situation, however banal, can take a lifetime. The story takes place over six hours, but it can't be told in real time. The filmmkaer has to choose those bits of reality to film. Every time you cut, you turn the camera or your eye towards one situation, you turn your back on another."

Mr. Lazarescu is 63 years old and lives in a block of flats, together with Nusu, Mirandolina and Fritz, his three cats. His wife died eight years ago and Bianca, his daughter, has moved to Canada.
It's a Saturday evening. Mr. Lazarescu doesn't feel too well, so he calls for the Ambulance. Until the paramedics arrive he tries to ease his pain with something from his own supply of medicines. Because he is short of the pills he needs, he asks for his neighbors' help.
Sandu and Miki, the neighbors interrupted from their domestic activity, give him the first aid, although they can smell he's been drinking. What looked like a headache from a hangover turns out to be a much more serious affliction when Lazarescu, witnessed by the two neighbors, throws up blood.
Eventually, the paramedic, Mrs. Mioara, shows up. Smelling the alcohol stench, she gives Mr. Lazarescu vitamins and glucose and then, after a more thorough investigation, decides to take him to the hospital, suspecting a colon tumor.
But things get complicated at the hospital. A car crash with lots of casualties is the priority for the doctors in the ER. To add to this, Doctor Ardelean is in no mood to admit an alcoholic and thus sends Mrs. Mioara, together with Mr. Lazarescu to another hospital.
What looked initially like a simple formality the admission to the hospital and the monitoring of an old man who's been throwing up and complains of a headache- turns into a nightmare.
As the night develops, the paramedic drives around Bucharest, trying to find a hospital that will accept the patient, whose health is deteriorating at an alarming rate.


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