Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Recommendation

To borrow a phrase from fellow blogger and friend McSeanigall: if you own two pairs of shoes, sell one and buy the 3-DVD set of Bela Tarr's Sátántangó (1994). My partner and I watched all seven hours last night (rather apt for Good Friday, although I'm no Catholic) and were left in awed silence at the audacious brilliance of Tarr's vision. Glacially slow, bleak, and breathtakingly beautiful, this film, using the fall of communism as an allegory for the human experience, is the absolute negation of everything that Hollywood stands for and an epic testament to the power of cinema to be about more than just storytelling. I haven't seen Tarr's earlier films, but his Werckmeister Harmóniák (2000) is a very remarkable (and shorter) introduction to his work, if a little obscure and confusing (I recommend avoiding The Man from London (2007), which I thought was very poor, a clear mismatch of form and content). I don't often say this, but I think Sátántangó is a masterpiece, as well as being the best film I've seen in absolute ages (and definitely one to be watched in a single sitting!). You may not like it, but it's one of a kind. (I dithered over whether to include a clip or not, as with this film the context is everything - besides, how can a single excerpt sum up a seven-hour film? - but the following shot is characteristic of Tarr's style. Do remember that such a brief snippet will never recreate the cumulative effect of his extremely long, often very static, single takes.)

4 comments:

Sean Jeating said...

Ha, D.E., thanks - also in the name of the old hunchback.

Far from being a cineast, I am fascinated by Tarkovsky's work. And his name immediately came to my mind when reading your post.
Interestingly, when wikepediaing 'Sátántangó', there is no German entry, yet.
Anyway, Tuesday I shall try to get the DVD.
Thanks for the tip, D.E., and a lovely weekend to Lady Doubtful, Rothko and you.

A Doubtful Egg said...

Of the Tarkovsky films I've seen, I love Mirror, Andrei Rublev, and Ivan's Childhood. He is a huge influence on Tarr, to the best of my knowledge. The DVD was released on Artificial Eye a few years ago, and shouldn't be too hard to find in a good shop. I await with anticipation your opinion.
You must forgive my ignorance, but the reference to the old hunchback has left me a little confused, possibly because I'm just up and haven't had my coffee yet!
And a fine weekend to you and yours as well. The sun is shining here, and there's real heat in its rays, a sure sign that spring has fully arrived. A good day for a long walk in the mountains, I think!

jams o donnell said...

I watched the Werckmeister Harmonies a few years ago. It didn't really grab me. I've thought of trying Stantango tough. Perhaps I will add it to my Lovefilm list

A Doubtful Egg said...

I much preferred Satantango to Werckmeister personally. As Satantango is divided into three parts, it can be enjoyed as much in installments as in one go, although I felt that watching it through in one sitting is more in keeping with the spirit of the film. However, I must point out that some scenes may be a bit uncomfortable for cat lovers (although the director is at pains to point out that a vet was on the set at all times, and the cat in question was his own pet!)