Though billed as a “black comedy,” Romanian auteur Cristi Puiu’s masterfully realized second film defies all generic boundaries. Mr. Lazarescu, a slightly overweight, saggy-eyed widower, tends to his cats in his ragged flat, stopping to make phone calls to his sister and then an ambulance. You see, his head and stomach hurt, and he is sure it’s not just from the heavy drinking. What follows is a journey through the last moments of the man’s life; as his consciousness slowly fades, the viewer’s heightens.
The pace and subject of the film are so unfamiliar that it takes some time to get grounded. Elements of Beckett-ian absurdity make the story a Waiting For Godot at the hospital. Though we know the ending – it is the same for all of us – we come to wish it for poor Mr. Lazarescu, realizing it a respite from the tired, mundane business of life. Frustrating to watch at times, this epic (154 minutes) film is a spectacularly singular one, growing on the viewer slowly and quietly taking hold of the mind.