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NYFF: “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.”

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Ion Fiscuteanu as Lazarescu Dante RemusThis year’s Cannes Camera d’Or winner, "The Death of Lazarescu" is an excursion into Kafkaesque despair. The titular character is a 62-year-old retired engineer living in Bucharest in a slovenly apartment with three cats as his only company. He likes to drink, despite his ulcer. He has a headache, and he’s been vomiting all day. He calls an ambulance — and so begins his night-long journey to find treatment.

Director Cristi Puiu describes his film as a story about "love of humanity," or, in this case, a total lack thereof, but what it actually depicts is not so much a world without empathy as one in which everyone is too preoccupied with his or her own (often considerable) concerns to invest effort in other people. Lazarescu’s neighbors enjoy lecturing him on how terrible his living conditions are, but can’t be bothered to go down to the hospital with him. On the phone, his sister only wants to know where the money he promised is. The closest to a friendly face in whole film is the weary ambulance technician who escorts Lazarescu to what turns out to be three different hospitals, but even she is only fighting to get him admitted because is he dies in her ambulance, his death will be recorded as her fault.

Puiu calls "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" inspired by both Eric Rohmer and "E.R.," and his depiction of hospitals exists in stunning contrast to that show’s swooping cameras and constant flurry of movement — they seem near abandoned, silent, with staff reluctant to take responsibility. Cutting sharpest are the glimpses we get of the personal lives of various nurses and doctors — one won’t see Lazarescu until he get through to his wife on the phone before she leaves for work, another idly talks about coworker’s wedding as they wait for him to get a scan. Their lives continue on, unaffected, regardless of whether, as we’re promised, Lazarescu dies sometime during the night. He, on the other hand, may be in his last few hours on earth, and he’s utterly disregarded.

It’s a distressing film to watch, but a masterful one. Puiu, who keep his film entirely in grim interiors, maintains a tone that’s funny and corrosive as hell, but never angry — he’s not setting out to rail against the system, really. No one character takes the blame (aside from what may be the most maddening part of the film, in which a doctor decides that the ambulance technician is being uppity and that he’ll teach her a lesson), or all of them do, for not stepping forward. Instead, what we’re left with is a sense of the teeming, unheeding life of the city we never see, and a reminder that we’re ultimately face death alone.

"The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" will be released in March, 2006 by Tartan Films.

Click here for all the NY Film Festival reviews thus far.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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