Thoughts on the film:
I really liked it, and it is a fine film for Tarr to go out on. This is certainly a huge improvement to The Man From London
which to me is his only failed film post-Almanac. But it is slow...even for a Tarr film, this is probably his slowest film. He doesn't have a lot to work with of course, and that is certainly the point. The repetitious and dull life of this peasant family out on the plains is captured brilliantly placing the viewer in the same situation. I was reminded of the Ackerman film, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
several times throughout. I have never thought of Tarr as a minimalist, but this is probably about as close as he has gotten.
The photography was top-notch and standard Tarr: stark, desolate, and well composed. I was most impressed by the sound though. The score as well (really only one piece of music) was hauntingly beautiful.
I really enjoyed Tarr's wit here. For example, the farmer calling the visitor's philosophical pontification 'rubbish'. But what was truly great here is Tarr reinforcing it with the book the gypsy gave the girl of canonical law where is states many of the same ideas of humanity being awful and destroying everything it touches.
I don't think if I were to ever recommend this director's rich body of work I would ever suggest this as a starting point. The film seemed like a true culmination of his entire body of work. There were shots and moments that I felt were homages to his previous films. I disagree that it was as engaging as WH or Satantango by the lack of narrative here. Though it is as beautiful as his other films, I feel I appreciated this more knowing what to expect from Tarr. My Ordeal:
My g/f couldn't make it today due to school work. I woke up fairly early and saw that Cinema Village on 12th Street had a 12:30 showing so I bought a ticket and was off. I got there at 12:10 and found that they were closed and wouldn't open until 12:30 which is extremely odd to me that they would be screening a film immediately upon opening. I walked around the block and got a beer, came back at 12:25, and saw they had opened 'early'.
Took my seat, and the previews rolled with no sound. Not a big deal. Movie begins rolling and still no sound. In the middle of the first scene with the man and horse driving home, I got up and found the manager to tell him that there was no sound. He said he would look into it and then said in a flip manner, "It's probably just a quiet part in the film".
He messed with every knob for about 10 minutes before the theater gave up. He refunded everyone's money. It's only playing there at Lincoln Center and the next C12 showing was 7:30 and LC was at 3pm.
So, I bummed around and went to the 3pm show uptown. Packed house and a pretty respectful audience sans the very old woman who sat next to me. She arrived 10 minutes late and was silent for the most part. About an hour and a half in though, I noticed that she kept looking at me and practically staring. Perhaps she was trying to gauge a reaction, but she clearly didn't know what she had bought a ticket for. Around that time and using the normal volume of her voice asked me, "where does this film take place." Not wanting to get into the debate of whether it took place near Turin or if the farmer had in fact traveled all of the way back to Hungary before the Day 1 sequence in the prologue, I told her I didn't know. Then about 130 minutes in (146 minute movie), she asked in full volume, "How much longer is this?" I told her with an annoyed tone that I didn't know, but she laughed and seemed to think I was making a crack about the slow film. She then proceeded to ask everyone around us dismissing everyone who shushed her.
Leaving the theater, I instantly went and had two baked potatoes.