The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
is a disarmingly simple film. In an almost vérité style, Romanian writer-director Cristi Puiu depicts the last night in the life of his titular character, Lazarescu Dante Remus (Ion Fiscuteanu in a hypnotic performance). Mr. Lazarescu is a drinker. His wife is dead, his only child moved away, and he lives alone in Bucharest with his three cats and a ragged Kim Wilde poster. One morning he wakes up with a terrible headache that gets worse as the day passes. He gets sick - from the aspirin, he thinks - and begins to have stomach problems as well. And, of course, he drinks. But not too much. When the pain becomes too great to bear, he calls once, and then again for an ambulance.

His movements clearly slowed by pain, Mr. Lazarescu goes across the hall, ostensibly on a quest for painkillers. What he finds is a pair of temporary, advice-filled caregivers, and a neutral observer whose call might persuade the dispatcher to send an ambulance, even on Saturday night. By the time the ambulance finally arrives, Mr. Lazarescu, clearly the worse for wear, is having trouble even walking, and tumbles into the tub in his bathroom. After a brusque examination, the ambulance nurse is content to treat her patient with a glucose injection, a painkiller, and a recommendation for a doctor's visit on Monday. His severe stomach pain, however, suggests advanced cancer to her, and she decides to take him in.