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December 15, 2005

Foreign Language Oscar nom: The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and a life in Romanian movies

"This movie set out with a series of drawbacks. It is a movie that lasts 153 minutes, it is a Romanian movie in Romanian, it is a movie about a man who dies, as is also announced in the title, so from the very start there are several small impediments," director Cristi Puiu says of his prize-winning The Death of Mr. Lazarescu in a lengthy interview with Bucharest Daily News' Otilia� Haraga about his film's Foreign Language Oscar potential and the future of that small country's indigenous movie industry. 4805.jpg The 38-year-old director, who says his next movie will be called Food for Small Fish, talks title: "Without taking into consideration the story itself, I think a title like this sends the viewer in at least 2 directions. Supposing I am a cinema spectator and browsing the newspapers I discover this movie I have several references: there are cultural references like "The Death of Ivan Ilici." If you have never heard of Tolstoi before or nobody told you anything about this book before, then everything comes down to this title, "The Death of Ivan Ilici." It is somebody's death. Behind this movie there can very easily be a detective story. The same applies to Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman." For me it was important that the movie be called The Death of Mr Lazarescu because it told precisely the story of an old man who dies and he dies in a very specific way. This is why I am saying it is like a rope dancing with this title because some of the spectators will certainly not go to see this movie unless they find out in the [trailer] that it is a detective story. Why should the public go to see a movie about an old man who dies? ...I think it matters less if Mr Lazarescu is 60, 30, 20 or 90 years old, I think it matters less if he is a gentleman or a lady, what matters first of all is that this title speaks about the death of a human being. And at least for me this is reason enough to see the movie which talks about this. If the spectator has the courage to conceive himself in this hypothesis, as a future corpse, then he will go to see the movie. If not, he will not go. It is clear that the title is not appealing but at the same time if you go to see the movie you are rewarded." Puiu also elaborates on how Lazarescu is the first of six movies about love. "There are six of them because it is a kind of homage I am paying in this way to Eric Rohmer's "Six Moral Tales." And that is why I decided to make only six of them, because you can talk about love in "The only solution would be for the government to decide to invest in cinema. But on the other hand it seems grotesque to think about cinema when we are not even capable of paying decent salaries to teachers or doctors. What cinema? I mean, really, cinema is a luxury. We are not even capable of having a sound health and education system. Really. If I were a Prime Minister, I would not grant money for cinema. I would grant money for education and health. A healthy country should have competent teachers and medical staff. What is happening to them is unacceptable."

Posted by pride at December 15, 2005 11:03 AM


I'm a soulless philistine, and Lazarescu was easily the best movie I saw all year. Really, it's probably one of the best new releases I've ever seen. Just impossibly moving and powerful.

That said, the Oscars so rarely recognize quality that even a nomination seems unlikely.

Posted by: Martha [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 15, 2005 02:31 PM

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