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Best of the Decade #18

Best of the Decade #18

The eponymous hero of Cristi Puiu’s 2005 film The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is dwarfed by his epic name. This man, paunchy, disheveled, and suffering, is Dante Remus Lazarescu. Evoking Dante Alighieri, Lazarescu descends into an inferno where each circle of hell takes the form of a different hospital. He has no familiar guide to comfort him as he traverses this purgatory (his brother-in-law, Virgil, lives far away and is only good for a loan), and he is older and weaker than the literary legend who bears his name. Lazarescu’s second name conjures the disappointment of Romulus’s slain twin brother, who never founded Rome. For all of the deaths foretold in these names, there is redemption too: after all, Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead. And just as Dante’s Divine Comedy is a masterpiece of Italian literature, so does Puiu’s film deserve its place in the burgeoning Romanian cinematic canon. But Dante’s depiction of the Christian afterlife was not only for Italians, and Puiu’s film is hardly specifically Romanian: it’s a universal human parable of life, cowardice, kindness, and death. Read Lauren Kaminsky on The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.

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