Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)

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foggy eyes
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#76 Post by foggy eyes » Mon Dec 11, 2006 1:54 am

Bordwell blogs on Sátántangó.

For denti and zedz: the shot count is apparently 172, offering us an average shot length of two and a half minutes. Bordwell's excellent analysis helps (it's a little scrappy, but the best I've read so far), yet even he cannot pin down its ineffable quality.

EDIT: Cinemetrics have measured the ASL at 145 seconds.
Last edited by foggy eyes on Tue Aug 14, 2007 8:11 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Panda
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#77 Post by Panda » Mon Dec 11, 2006 12:22 pm

I see that this film is scheduled to play in the Boston area at the Harvard Film Archive Sat-Sun January 13-14th with a refreshment break.

Seven and 1/2 hours? Sounds tough, although I've liked some slow-moving lengthy films like "Unbearable Lightness of Being" and "The Leopard." The last time I spent that anywhere near much time in the theatre was for the entire Apu trilogy, although it falls a bit short in total time.

So tell me, should I jump at this opportunity? Is it that good?

Panda

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rumz
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#78 Post by rumz » Mon Dec 11, 2006 12:51 pm

Panda wrote:I see that this film is scheduled to play in the Boston area at the Harvard Film Archive Sat-Sun January 13-14th with a refreshment break.
Nice! And seeing this in a theater in a single sitting is very different from seeing it in any other context. I was impressed with the film's virtuosic camera staging the first time I saw it -- on a VHS boot -- but seeing it in a theater is a necessarily exhaustive experience, one that associates the viewer's endurances with those of the characters in the film.

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#79 Post by spencerw » Sun Feb 25, 2007 8:37 am

I shall be in Budapest next week. Can anyone recommend a store where I might find the Hungarian Tarr DVDs?

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skuhn8
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#80 Post by skuhn8 » Sun Feb 25, 2007 10:53 am

spencerw wrote:I shall be in Budapest next week. Can anyone recommend a store where I might find the Hungarian Tarr DVDs?
Good luck. Media Markt in Budapest's West End Plaza (Nyugati Ter metro station/train station--where the filmed the first shot of Before Sunrise btw) has Family Nest in stock: one copy. Your best bet is probably to go to the Libri bookstore in Mamut (another mall this one next to the Moszkva Metro station in Buda). I heard it's huge and they carry 'more intelligent fare'. I haven't been there yet; I live far away and rarely head to that neck of the woods when I do make it into BP.

The Tarr dvds are about 4400 forints: about $21, barebones. The three that are available are Werckmeister, Family Nest and Damnation. That's it. The Hungarian Jancso's do not have subs of any kind.

But if you go to Media Markt (and I suppose elsewhere) you can find pieces from the recent 30 Hungarian Classics releases which include Zoltan Fabri, Marton Keleti and Laszlo Ranody. Not all have English subs unfortunately, I believe about half.

Word of advice: Tarr and Jancso are just two Hungarian filmmakers. Take advantage of the opportunity to dip your feet in the waters of Central European cinema.

And of course, purchase A Tanu (The Witness) if you haven't already.

BTW, I lived in Budapest for about five years (seven years ago) so if you have any questions--and not just dvd related--feel free to pm me.

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#81 Post by spencerw » Mon Feb 26, 2007 9:11 am

Many thanks for the tips, skuhn8. Much appreciated! I was surprised to read that only three Tarr titles have been released in Hungary. I would have sworn I'd read that all the films released by Facets and Artificial Eye were now out on the Hungarian label.

Your point about other Hungarian directors is well taken. I plan to leaf through John Cunningham's book Hungarian Cinema beforehand and draw up a list of promising-sounding films. Perhaps we need a 'Hungarian films' thread....

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skuhn8
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#82 Post by skuhn8 » Wed Feb 28, 2007 9:12 am

spencerw wrote:Many thanks for the tips, skuhn8. Much appreciated!

I was surprised to read that only three Tarr titles have been released in Hungary. I would have sworn I'd read that all the films released by Facets and Artificial Eye were now out on the Hungarian label.

Your point about other Hungarian directors is well taken. I plan to leaf through John Cunningham's book Hungarian Cinema beforehand and draw up a list of promising-sounding films.

Perhaps we need a 'Hungarian films' thread....
Well, that would be quite interesting. As far as Hungarian films being available in Hungary: only in the last year has Mokep and fantasy films stepped up to bring more much needed product to the shelves. Until then you could count the Hungarian classics available on DVD on both hands. No exageration. But now with the Hungarian Classics collection (30 I believe; spine numbers and all--you'll see them on prominent display in the magyar film section; dark blue covers) and Mokep's Szindbad, Tarrs, Jancsos and a few from Laszlo Ranody and Zoltan Fabri there's definitely some good pickings. Sadly, some of the great Hungarian directors are ignored in the west.

Before there was Jancso there was a filmmaker by the name of Zoltan Fabri (he actually appears in A Tanu) who got the foreign attention. His classic, Pal Utcai Fiuk, was actually one of the biggest and most successful US/Hungarian co-productions. Hard part of course is finding the ones with English subs...or finding the discs at all as most stores will carry 20 copies of Hollywood Johnny's Super ShitRocket and not one Szindbad. One of Hungary's greatest films and none of my colleagues were even aware that it's out on DVD as not one store in our shitty little town here will stock it.

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#83 Post by MichaelB » Wed Feb 28, 2007 11:48 am

When I first had a trawl through Prague DVD shops in 2001 I found maybe a dozen titles with English subtitles - but since then there's been an explosion, with two labels in particular (Filmexport Home Video and Centrum ÄŒeského Videa) offering anything up to 200 titles in English-friendly editions.

So it sounds as though something similar may be happening in Hungary, which is encouraging - though it's disappointing that the Hungarian Film Classics DVDs are totally barebones, even to the extent of leaving English subtitles off half of them. That said, though Filmexport's DVDs are usually crammed with extras, most of them are Czech-only, so there's not much difference!

And Skuhn8 is right about the potential for discovery - Szindbad in particular is a really extraordinary film. So much so that I couldn't believe I'd never heard of its director Zoltán Huszárik before - but when I found out that he only made two features before killing himself, that cleared things up a little.

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#84 Post by spencerw » Thu Mar 01, 2007 5:16 pm

Talking of Tarr, some news of The Man from London

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MichaelB
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#85 Post by MichaelB » Thu Mar 01, 2007 5:29 pm

I particularly liked this bit:
Editing will be a clear-cut affair according to the film's French producer.
Just join the reels together, I'd have thought.

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Oedipax
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#86 Post by Oedipax » Thu Mar 01, 2007 7:22 pm

MichaelB wrote:I particularly liked this bit:
Editing will be a clear-cut affair according to the film's French producer.
Just join the reels together, I'd have thought.
Pretty much. I remember reading somewhere that Werckmeister Harmonies was edited in something like one day.

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miless
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#87 Post by miless » Thu Mar 01, 2007 7:28 pm

Oedipax wrote:
MichaelB wrote:I particularly liked this bit:
Editing will be a clear-cut affair according to the film's French producer.
Just join the reels together, I'd have thought.
Pretty much. I remember reading somewhere that Werckmeister Harmonies was edited in something like one day.
yeah, that's what he said in an interview...
an interesting factoid, Bunuel's The Discreet Charm was edited in less than 12 hours.

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#88 Post by spencerw » Fri Mar 02, 2007 7:00 am

My apologies if this has been mentioned before, but there is an interview with László Krasznahorkai, the author of the screenplay of Satantango and the novel on which it is based, here, and an English synopsis of the novel here.

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Lemmy Caution
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#89 Post by Lemmy Caution » Sun Mar 04, 2007 2:20 pm

Finally watched Satantango over two nights. Agree with many that it didn't feel so long. To add to the wine or gingersnaps debate, I nibbled on a brick of marzipan with water. But I think the best viewing suggestion is to save it for a rainy day, preferably a full downpour. Last night I finished up the film with a steady drizzle and the windows all fogged up, and it aided the mood and feel of the film.

I especially enjoyed the first hour which was magnetic and powerful. The opening scene with the cows and the later shot of Irimias and Petrinas walking down the rain-swept, wind-blown road were hypnotic. The cat scene was not nearly as worrisome as some led me to believe. I'm pretty sensitive to animal welfare, with a particular fondness for cats, and my cat and I were only minimally disturbed. Which is good as that allowed the focus to be on the young girl and her turmoil.

Interesting to see that a number of posters here were most taken with the Doctor, while I found most of his scenes to be among the slowest and least satisfying. Possibly my negative reaction to the Doctor was spurred by the fact that he reminded me too much of a friend who drank himself to death a couple years ago.

Still digesting the film and its visuals and themes. I liked the interlude with the horses wandering around the two square. A nice metaphor, as they are out on temporary reprieve from the slaughterhouse, seemingly content with no purpose, blissfully unaware of what fate awaits them. In fact all of the animal scenes -- the cows, the random pigs, the cat, the horses -- seemed to be a pretty somber and effective commentary on the lives of the human animals.

As for political themes, capitalism, collectivization, and (religious) belief are all shown as systems that breakdown and result in failure. I need to think a bit more about how the police and authorities factor into the mix, as well as the meaning of Irimias as informer. And he's informing on what exactly? Is it just totalitarian state surveillance or something more?

Lastly, a few technical issues. I watched the Clavis DVDs, which were mostly fine, but there was a large recurring black splotch which would appear at about ten minute intervals in the upper-right of the picture for a second or two at a time.

And the subtitles contained some errors, including misspellings and a word left out on at least two occasions. Also the last lines of the film are repeated from an earlier scene. Were the words identical? Because in the Clavis translation I'm pretty sure the words were not the same (they were shortened and partly summarized the first time). I ask because the spoken Hungarian seemed to be the same.

There was also some noticeable jumping vertical lines at times, especially when a casket was being loaded on top of a vehicle and the metal shudders on a storefront in the background were vibrating like mad. (I'm in China and this could just be a problem with discs produced here). Anyway, nothing terrible, very glad to have an opportunity to see the film, but I'm left wondering if the AE version is better.

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#90 Post by spencerw » Sun Mar 11, 2007 6:38 am

Now that I'm back from Budapest, I thought I would briefly report on my experiences in search of DVDs.

Sadly, skuhn8 seems to have been misinformed about the Libri bookstore in Mamut. Even by Budapest standards, it is not a large bookshop and its stock of Hungarian DVDs is small in size and poor in quality.

I eventually found all three of the Hungarian Tarr releases at Alexandra Konyvesbolt, a large bookshop at Nyugati tér 7 (opposite the railway station). I bought Family Nest and Werckmeister Harmonies for slightly less than the price skuhn8 mentioned (i.e. 3799 forints each). I also found a copy of Benedek Fliegauf's Dealer with English subs there.

Over the road at Media Markt, I bought István Szabó's Budapest Tales, Sándor Pál's Deliver Us from the Devil (Szabadíts meg a gonosztól) and Kontrol (I know it's crap, but at 959 forints, who could resist it as a momento of the Budapest metro system?).

I didn't buy a copy of A Tanu (The Witness). The only copy I could find made no mention of English subs.

In general, I was surprised at just how few Hungarian DVDs were available. I took a list of about 20 films to seek out. Aside from the Tarrs, I found none.

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skuhn8
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#91 Post by skuhn8 » Sun Mar 11, 2007 5:12 pm

A Tanu has English subs and says so on the back: 'angol felirat'.

Sorry about the runaround on Mamut's Libri. Probably my misunderstanding.

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#92 Post by spencerw » Sun Mar 11, 2007 5:32 pm

skuhn8 wrote:A Tanu has English subs and says so on the back: 'angol felirat'.

Sorry about the runaround on Mamut's Libri. Probably my misunderstanding.
I just didn't spot the magic phrase. Too tired from tramping the streets of Budapest by then, I guess!

No need to apologize about Mamut's Libri. Everyone has to experience the horrors of the city's shopping centres at least once...

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HerrSchreck
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#93 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Mar 18, 2007 11:07 am

According to TLA Video, Facets finally are getting their shit together on this.

Ahem. We'll see.

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#94 Post by mbalson » Sun Mar 18, 2007 8:47 pm

By getting their "shit together" I guess you mean they are finally releasing this. I am sure it will be another typical Facets pile.

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cgray
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#95 Post by cgray » Wed Mar 28, 2007 11:30 pm

Received the AE copy a couple weeks ago, and got around to watching (most) of it on Sunday. I couldn't finish on Sunday, and had to wrap it up tonight.

Like many, I am overwhelmed by the film. Some of you talk about your viewing experience as relaxed or drugged. I had a dissimilar experience--the movie rarely lulled me. Of course, I was drawn in by many things, but I was generally aware of the passage of time and (perhaps because of the limitations of DVDs, about 2.25 hrs on each disc), and I don't recall ever being shocked at how much time had passed when a glance fell on the dvd minute counter.

On the food debate: Sunday consisted of old plum brandy brought back from Croatia. Close enough, I guess. Seemed fitting.

I enjoyed people's comparisons to Gerry. The movie also constantly reminded my of Marienbad (the staging/blocking of the characters, esp. during some of the freeze frame type moments); Stalker--the beginning black and white parts (I guess just the harsh environment, simple houses, and long takes; simple enough!); and Eraserhead (again, the clarity and grey-scale of the black and whites; also the eerie ambient drones running through both movies; Jack Nances first walk at the beginning wasn't so dissimilar from some of the strolls in this movie).

One of my favorite scenes was when the wagon/caravan was approaching the house, and you've been hearing the sound of the wagon as you travel behind these people. It shows the house, then you're in front of the people, closing in on the door, and continuing to hear the wagon sound. As you get to the door--right up against the door and in total blackness--the wagon sound continues. In fact, I think the noise actually increased--it seemed as if the doors would open and the furies of hell would be let loose. Not sure if anybody felt this scene was as sinister or foreboding as I. Also very much liked the walks of the two when the wind is at their backs--pretty scenes indeed.
Michael wrote:But anyway, you know what's most astonishing about Satantango? At 7+ hours, I can't imagine removing a single scene. And I remain shocked that it was made 12 years ago. It certainly doesn't look like it was.
I agree, but at the same time, I'm not a smart enough film viewer to know why the scenes were exactly the length they were. In the 10 minute walking scenes, I found that I could go either way: "That scene was really great. However, it could have been 10 seconds/minutes shorter, or 10 seconds/minutes/hours longer." This falls back into the earlier discussion of whether these parts of the movie constitute "narration" because, while they are more than style, they don't seem to be entirely whole integers that we can count as contributions to the story lines.

Edit: Enjoyed reading David Bordwell's comments, linked somewhere above. He writes, "The shots are surprisingly open-ended. They could go on forever. They don't anticipate a process of development and completion, as other directs' long takes do, and they don't climax in the sort of visual epiphanies beloved of... Tarr just charges ahead, without hinting how, when, or if, the shot will end." So, sounds like he had a similar experience, and similar ponderings about whether shot lengths are arbitrary (for if they are open-ended, choosing to close them at any particular time is necessarily arbitrary, is it not?). (end of edit)

Here's a theory why many, including myself, seemed to like the brandy man: he seems to have more routine than other characters, and his routine is slightly more complex. For instance, in the last chapter when he is filling up his brandy bottle from the wicker jug, you can pretty much number the steps that he will have to take before the film can progress to a further point. (i.e. open bottle 1, open bottle 2, hope he has a flask, good he has a funnel, put the funnel in, pour while barely breathing, wait for funnel to subside, etc.). Therefore, his scenes seemed to have a lot more predictability to me... I was better able to predict the cuts, etc., whereas the stories of other characters were a little more spontaneous (ummm...did I just call the movie spontaneous?). Anyway, I think you can understand what I mean. More routine, more predictability, fun to watch him and know his actions before his body can carry them out.

Like another viewer, I also didn't totally understand the two administrative men in the second to last chapter. I understand that they were reports on characters, and that they were signing Irimias's name to their report. To what end? Any thoughts?

Anyway, I'll have fun continuing to think about this, and revisiting it in the future. Thanks for everybody's previous comments--some good thinking, here.

Edit #2: About a week prior to viewing, I saw the film The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (very good), and read an article in May/June 06 Film Comment, in which Paul Arthur has an article about "body films"--films that explore the image of the body. The article claims that less and less contemporary films are making such explorations, with some notable exceptions: Cristi Puiu, Bela Tarr, etc. I enjoyed thinking about the article with Tarr's extreme closeups in Satantango, and encourage those so inspired to seek out the article (and watch Lazarescu). (end edit #2)

Nothing
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#96 Post by Nothing » Tue May 29, 2007 11:24 am

Finally got around to watching this.

It is certainly an impressive feat and certainly one of the better films of the last 20 years. That a film like this was made in (relatively) modern times is astounding in itself. It demonstrates technical and conceptual audacity and a consistent sense of mood. At the same time, I don't believe it attains the heights of the 'landmark' masterpieces at which it is aiming (Tarkovsky, Bresson, Antonioni, Mizoguchi, Angelopoulos, etc). I would also take Jancso over Tarr.

On these very relative terms, my criticisms would be:

- it is too long. Sure, the length is part of the point, but it isn't necessary thematically, some scenes are better than others and tightening the film up by 1-2 hrs would improve it no end. At the same time, given what Tarr has achieved, one hesitates to criticise too harshly on this front.

Secondly, the political allegory and depiction of human nature is all rather reductionist; not necessarily a problem, except that, for a film of this length, it makes it harder to sustain interest beyond the narrative/aesthetic level as the film goes on. The moments when Iramias kneels to witness the fog ("haven't you seen fog before?"), the horses are dismissed ("the horses escaped the slaughterhouse again...") and the crazy old racist is revealed to be ringing the 'mystical' bells, seem like direct stabs at Tarkovsky. Of course, as an atheist, one might feel that Tarkovsky's mysticism deserves a bit of puncturing. And Tarr is fully entitled to present us with a treatise on human idiocy, wallowing in the mud with his terminally retarded, somewhat caricatured, characters for 7 hours, like the rather large pig that wanders through the village square. But, as a result, the film never attains the heights of feeling conveyed by the great transcendental works of cinema such as Andrei Rublyov or Diary of a Country Priest (I say this as an atheist). If cinema is a realm of dreams then perhaps such stringent materialism (and miserablism) ultimately weighs down Tarr's camera as it tries to fly. All this aside, the viewpoint isn't wrong and it's a highly-achieved, unique and very valid film that deserves to be out there, I'm just not sure how many times I would make a return trip.

Nothing tops the opening shot, a true coup-de-cinema that sums up pretty much everything the film has to say in 5 minutes.

p.s. don't expect much of anything out of Lazarescu.

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#97 Post by miless » Wed Aug 15, 2007 1:40 am

Would anyone out there know where I could pick-up (or "load-down") the Mihály Vig scores for Béla Tarr's films (from Almanac of Fall onward)?
I've seen a CD for sale on some Hungarian websites (I don't know Hungarian, however... and don't feel that comfortable buying from Hungary online) but was wondering if there was anywhere to look.
(I found one track from Werckmeister Harmonies for download, and that's about it)

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My Man Godfrey
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#98 Post by My Man Godfrey » Wed Aug 15, 2007 6:59 am

Just finished watching this one for the first time.

What a piece of shit! Honestly, my time would have been better spent just watching Lambada five or six times. If you ask me, Tarr's mediocre Satantango is the true "forbidden dance."

Kidding, kidding!

(Actually, those are the kinds of comments that are being posted in all sincerity on the Bergman memorial thread. "He's middle-class!" "He sucks!")

I loved Satantango, of course -- more than Werckmeister Harmonies, which was my introduction to Tarr -- and have enjoyed reading the comments on this thread. A few questions/comments of my own:

1) Re Kekid and Godardslave's exchange on page one: I agree with Kekid that it's nice to have a place to discuss the actual content of these films, even if that means creating "duplicate threads." Of course, this site is an invaluable resource when it comes to transfer comparisons, technical critiques and so on; it's because of this site (and my own bad experience with the Facets Werckmeister Harmonies DVD) that I ordered the AE discs from England. On the other hand, though, I also really value the discussions that don't necessarily mention anamorphic this and PAL conversion that . . .

Parenthetical question re the audio on the Facets Werckmeister DVD: I've read a lot of criticism about the "tinniness." Tinniness is something I can probably live with . . . but not that constant clicking! Is that part of the movie? That constant clicking hiss on the soundtrack? It was so obnoxious that I nearly decided, by the end, that it had to be a part of Tarr's film, because no company (even Facets) would commercially release a DVD with audio this distractingly poor. I was also dismayed to learn that, in those long stretches where the screen is completely black, stuff is actually supposed to be visibly happening. (Oh, well. I plan to pick up the AE Werckmeister/Damnation set soon.)

2) Re Michael's question about the two officers transcribing (and idiotically censoring) the letter at the end: did someone answer that and I missed it? What IS going on there? Why is the government interested in Irimias's surveillance of these poor saps? Is it just meant to seem absurd -- a comment on a government that's going through certain motions without having any rational reason for doing so, a bit like a beheaded chicken? Or is there something I didn't get?

(On this theme of meaningless surveillance, I strongly -- strongly! -- recommend Maciej Drygas's sort-of-documentary, A Day in People's Poland, which is now available from sites like Merlin.pl as part of the PWA documentary series. All four movies in the Drygas box are amazing, actually.)

It's curious how slowing a movie down to seven hours can actually cause you to miss certain things you might otherwise have noticed. In sniffing around the web (oh, speaking of "web": I love the idea that the spiders in the pub in Satantango have a strong smell) for stuff on this movie, I found several contradictory plot synopses. (One summary stated that the members of the commune have, at the beginning of the film, received some sort of payment from the government as an incentive to shut the farm down. Is that correct? I assumed that they'd simply received an annual payment for their work on the farm, which was to be divided by share among the communers. Sorry if these are stupid questions.)

3) I was surprised by the (playful) suggestions to hit the plum wine while watching Satantango. For me, this movie's almost like a public service announcement against drinking. Maybe instead of showing teenagers condescending scare films in their high school health classes, the government should simply force them all to watch seven-hour movies that unflinchingly detail the lives of dissolute rural Hungarians.

4) My lone criticism: It did seem, at times, that this film was made for people who'd already read the book. That's fine, of course; some of my favorite adaptations are ones that "converse" with the source text rather than attempt (or purport) to transcribe the original text into a new medium. That being said: there were a few spots -- Irimias kneeling before the fog . . . and especially the scene in which the duped villagers arrive at the new estate -- where the film seemed frustratingly (maybe I should say: uninterestingly) ambiguous.

To clarify: when they arrive at the run-down old mansion, my own thought was: "Holy shit! That house is disgusting!" But so much of the world of these characters -- so much of what they're running away from -- is as dreary and epically horrible as the new house, so I really couldn't tell what those long shots of them looking around (to the accompaniment of that cool otherworldly music) were meant to convey.

A similar moment, and the one place where I think Tarr's long-takes actually weakened the film: the girl's reaction to the death of the cat. Until she tries to get the doctor's attention outside the bar, it doesn't seem like there's anything to indicate the guilt (and panic?) that she's feeling -- or her desire for the cat to be restored to life. The long shot of her walking with the cat tucked under her arm did not say to me: grief and existential terror. While I was moved by the suicide, I also thought the voice-over, rather than putting a period on the sequence, was adding so much new information to the film, adding so much to the character, in a way, that it felt like cheating. A different shot selection, or a break in the rhythm of the montage, could easily have made me aware that this child wasn't just a cold, vaguely bovine (that opening shot . . .) sociopath -- that she was actually feeling life in a way that the other characters weren't.

There's my Satantango-length post.

(This thread is making me wish I lived some place like Portland or Vancouver -- or my hometown of Austin -- where it's possible to find other people willing to take the plunge with a movie like this.)

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#99 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Fri Aug 17, 2007 1:00 pm

miless wrote:Would anyone out there know where I could pick-up (or "load-down") the Mihály Vig scores for Béla Tarr's films (from Almanac of Fall onward)?
I got mine here and found them very helpful/reliable

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miless
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#100 Post by miless » Fri Aug 17, 2007 4:24 pm

NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:
miless wrote:Would anyone out there know where I could pick-up (or "load-down") the Mihály Vig scores for Béla Tarr's films (from Almanac of Fall onward)?
I got mine here and found them very helpful/reliable
thanks a lot...
I just ordered it (and it was really easy!)
can't wait for it to get here.

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