A dark masterpiece comes to DVD

We’re honestly not in the habit of recommending obscure foreign films with grim titles. But The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is such a remarkable film — and it was such a sensation on the film festival circuit, particularly at Cannes last year — that we’ll make an exception.

Despite its billing as a comedy, Lazarescu (out on DVD today) is more sardonic than funny. The story simply follows the title character, a cranky drunk who gets shuttled from hospital to hospital due to a series of mix-ups and misunderstandings.

There’s plenty of sustained, darkly amusing absurdism to the proceedings — think of the Seinfeld episode in which the gang can’t find their car in a parking lot — but what makes the film quietly mesmerizing are the astonishingly naturalistic performances and the uniformly brilliant direction by the youngish Romanian master Cristi Puiu.

It’s all fiction, of course, but by the end of this deeply affecting film, you’ll be convinced you’ve just watched the realest, most intense, most revealing documentary about the human condition in ages.

“>VIEW the trailer

“>BUY The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, 2005. Romanian with English subtitles; 153 minutes

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