In this thread, please share your favourite films, directors and actors from Hungary.
You might like to talk about cultural aspects of films you enjoy, it'd be great to learn more about the history, the people and the country.
Please also consider Hungarian filmmakers and performers who've worked in other countries (eg. Peter Medak), or perhaps people you like with Hungarian ancestry currently working in Hollywood or elsewhere (eg. Nimrod Antal).
I prefer not to try and set any limits on this topic, all contributions are welcome.
"Movies are the enemy of the novel because they are replacing novels. Novelists shouldn’t write for the movies, unless, of course, they discover they’re no good at writing novels." - John Irving
An essential tool I've used to enhance my understanding of the deep roots held by Hungarian cinema has been the essay 'History Of The Hungarian Film, From The Beginning Until 1945' by Gyongyi Balogh. I knew about the impact Hungarian moguls like Adolph Zukor (founder of Paramount Pictures) and Vilmos Fuchs (aka. William Fox, founder of the Fox Film Corporation) had had in Hollywood. I also knew a significant number of films were produced in Hungary during the silent era, often in conjunction with the German and Austrian film industries, but seeing some was the key. Prominent studios in the nation's film history have been the Hunnia Film Studio, the Balazs Bela Studio and Korda Studios.
"Films have been shown, distributed and occasionally, though not regularly, made in Hungary since 1896. The progress and popularity of the new invention, "live photography" was helped by an economic boom during the long years of peace which followed the "Reconciliation" of Hungary and Austria, (the establishment of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy) as well as the festivities celebrating Hungarys millennium in 1896. It was the famous Lumičre company which started to show films regularly from 10 May 1896 in the coffee shop of the Hotel Royal in Budapest. The entrance fee was 50 pence and there were several screenings daily. Within twelve months, other Budapest cafés had taken on cinematography and by 1987 other towns had followed suit. The subjects of the first café-projections were cheap, canned, international sensations, featuring exotic landscapes, important events, comic scenes and famous beauties. However, in the first decade of the new century the Hungarian movie-theatre business became independent and moving pictures started to be shown on their own, rather than as elements of variety shows. The first films made in Hungary were closely connected with the 1896 millennium festivities. Lumičre's cinematographers filmed the royal procession. Zsigmond Sziklai, one of the first moving picture cameramen, filmed the visiting Franz Joseph, Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and King of Hungary. Sziklai's camera - like a true Freudian slip - cut off the king's head. The first non-newsreel Hungarian film, A tánc (Dance), directed by Béla Zitkovszky, was made at the Urania Hungarian Scientific Theatre, a venue opened in 1900 by the "Urania Scientific Society" so that its educational lectures could be illustrated by moving pictures. Dance was made to illustrate a lecture on dancing given by the well-known writer and politician, Gyula Pekár. It was shot on the roof terrace of the Urania and featured stage stars of the period in short sketches, "kinematogramms", introducing 24 dances. The lecture and film created great interest and the programme was repeated more than a hundred times. Occasional filmmaking continued in the Urania; Zitkovszky, driven by the success of Dance, shot other films to illustrate other lectures. By the end of the new centurys first decade there were 270 permanent cinemas in Hungary, some of them able to accommodate quite large audiences (the Royal Apollo could seat 600). As films started to be released on a regular basis, a more organised system of distribution soon followed. The first company to rent out films was "Projectograph" founded by Mór Ungerleider in 1908. Hungary was entering the history of the moving picture era as a cinema-going nation, not as a producer of films. This was largely because the structure of the Austro-Hungarian Empires economy was somewhat rigid and the American type of concentration of capital needed to create a film business was out of the question. However, the renting and selling of films soon led, inevitably, to production. Ungerleider's Projectograph started making films in 1908, offering documentaries and reconstructed newsreels (Vasúti szerencsétlenség - Railway Crash in Budapest, Kacsavadászat a Velencei tavon - Duck-hunt on the Lake Velence, Az újpesti bankrablás - Bank Robbery in Újpest). The next natural step following on from the development of film production was a meeting of the miraculous moving picture with narrative myths. The early "genre pictures", reconstructed newsreels and comic sketches, turned into feature films. Movies gained a new distinction in the early 1910s, largely as a result of the influence of Asta Nielsen, the famous Danish stars films. The elite of the literary, theatrical and art world became enthusiastic followers of the new form of expression. Writers, grouped around the famous periodical Nyugat (West) who supported 20th century modern European trends as opposed to romantic and episodic contemporary Hungarian literature, became avid cinema goers, just like Apollinaire and the Surrealists. Frigyes Karinthy - the Hungarian Borges - worked as a story editor ("dramaturg") for Sándor Korda in the 1910s. Film in Hungary did not immediately attract a masscult audience, at first it was more a form of midcult, part of the café-society culture. Filmmakers believed in the idea of a "film-culture" and emphasised the informative and educational importance of films. The moralists and art-critics of the period wanted to keep young people from watching films. They considered American films vulgar and insipid and Asta Nielsen's films frivolous. Our own first feature films did little to dispel these initial doubts. The first company with artistic ambitions, Hunnia (founded in 1911 and working as part of the Vígszínház theatre) became a victim of dilettantism and the distribution mafia who didn't want any competition for the imported foreign films. In the early years of Hungarian filmmaking a kind of hybrid genre began to blossom: the cinema-sketch. As film became more popular, live stage performances had started using projected film for background effect. The cinema-sketch provided the opposite: a screening was interrupted and the characters in the film appeared on stage. This genre, born from a match of stage and film, inspired several important writers, including Ferenc Molnár and Frigyes Karinthy. Ferenc Molnár wrote two sketches, Gazdag ember kabátja (Coat of the Rich Man), and Aranyásó (Gold Digger). The Theatre Life magazine jokingly called Frigyes Karinthy, the most enthusiastic creator of sketches, the "Hungarian Sketchpeare".
- Gyongyi Balogh, 'History Of The Hungarian Film, From The Beginning Until 1945'
"Film can be very important for a nation – for finding an identity, and keeping it, and also for telling other people about our country. Hungarian cinema is like Hungary itself: it's gone through a lot, sometimes it's found itself in difficulties, but it has kept its rich variety and can still produce beautiful things. Many say the golden age of Hungarian cinema was in the 1950s and 60s, when the dictatorship was at its most brutal. It is amazing how Hungarian directors of that time could find the means and ways to stand up against the regime through the human stories in their films. I particularly love Hungarian historical movies, as, during socialism, film-makers turned to the past. I especially like the 1968 film Stars of Eger – based on Géza Gárdonyi's Eclipse of the Crescent Moon – which depicts Hungarian life under Turkish occupation and the great battle between Turks and Hungarians, where all the woman famously joined in, pouring boiling water and hot wax over the soldiers crawling up into the castle. It just brings my childhood back and makes me feel more connected to my roots, our heritage. As patron of Check the Gate, London's festival of Hungarian film, I can also recommend the film Puskas Hungary, about the great Hungarian footballer. It is no surprise that the golden era of Hungarian film was the golden era of Hungarian football, too. Art and sport are both fantastic ways to achieve freedom, success and self-fulfilment under any circumstances. That's why I am happy to be the festival's patron, especially as the theme this year is emigration, a subject close to my heart since I left Hungary to come to the UK as a footballer six years ago. Comedy is also essential to Hungarians; we need our sense of humour to deal with difficult situations. That's why Hungarian comedy is ironic. A great example is from Péter Bacsó's The Witness, which is a great satire about communism. I always have to laugh when the communist leader is presented with the new Hungarian orange, which has been grown to prove that the country is capable of producing anything that is available in the west. Even though it is quite blatantly a sad little lemon, he bites into it as his comrade explains that it is indeed an orange – "a bit more yellow, a bit more sourer, but it is ours".
- Zoltan Gera, The Guardian
Korda Studio in Etyek
Balogh Béla (Born: January 1, 1885 in Székesfehérvár, Austria-Hungary [now Hungary] - Died: March 30, 1945 (age 60) in Leányfalu, Hungary)
'The Frozen Child' (1921, A Megfagyott gyermek - Bela Balogh)
Kertész Mihály (Born: December 24, 1886 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary [now Hungary] - Died: April 10, 1962 (age 75) in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA)
"Michael Curtiz (born as Kertész Kaminer Manó; often credited as Mihály Kertész) is revered for directing some of history’s most classic films: The Adventures Of Robin Hood, Captain Blood, and Angels With Dirty Faces, to name just a few; for his masterpiece, 1942’s Casablanca, Curtiz earned the Academy Award for Best Director. He left Hungary in 1919 when the film industry was nationalized, and soon settled in Vienna. It was there that Curtiz was discovered by Jack Warner for his Austrian Biblical epic Moon of Israel. Warner hired Curtiz for his studio, where he stayed for nearly 20 years – during his career, he directed more than 100 movies. He was famous for his capacity to get great performances out of any actor, and for his considerable skills behind the camera. Curtiz died in 1962, one year after completing his final film, The Comancheros with John Wayne." - Balint Kollar, '10 Hungarians Who Are Global Superstars Of Cinema History'
'Sodom And Gomorrah' (1922, Sodoma és Gomorra – Mihaly Kertesz)
'The Moon Of Israel' (1924, Rabszolgakirálynő – Mihaly Kertesz)
Korda Sándor (Born: September 16, 1893 in Pusztatúrpásztó, Austria-Hungary [now Hungary] - Died: January 23, 1956 (age 62) in London, England, UK)
"Hungarian émigré Alexander Korda (often credited as Korda Sándor) arrived in London in the early 1930s and transformed the fortunes of British cinema. He established his production company, London Films, built a huge studio complex at Denham in Buckinghamshire, and made some of the most ambitious and visionary feature films Britain had ever seen. Some of Korda’s biggest productions include sci-fi classic Things to Come (1936), adventure epic The Four Feathers (1939) and triple-Oscar-winning Technicolor fantasy The Thief of Bagdad (1940). One little-known aspect of his career was his close collaboration with Winston Churchill, explored in a new documentary about their relationship and Korda’s involvement in the war effort entitled Churchill and the Movie Mogul."
- Josephine Botting, The British Film Institute
'Samson And Delilah' (1922, Sámson és Delila - Korda Sandor)
The early sound era of Hungarian cinema was dominated by light entertainment. There were dramatic films being made but some fell foul of censorship. These are movies I've enjoyed.
'What does it mean for someone or something to be Hungarian? People in Hungary grappled with this far-reaching question in the wake of the losses and transformation brought by World War I. Because the period also saw the rise of cinema, audiences, filmmakers, critics, and officials often looked at films with an eye to that question, too. Did the Hungary seen on screen represent the Hungary they knew from everyday life? And-crucially-did the major role played by Jewish Hungarians in the film industry make the sector and its creations somehow Jewish rather than Hungarian? Jews, it was soon decided, could not really be Hungarian, and acts of Parliament soon barred them from taking major roles in cinema production.'
- An introduction to 'Hungarian Film, 1929-1947 : National Identity, Anti-Semitism And Popular Cinema' by Gabor Gergely
Székely István (Born: February 25, 1899 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary [now Hungary] - Died: March 9, 1979 (age 80) in Palm Springs, California, USA)
'Ball At Savoy' (1933, Ball im Savoy - Istvan Szekely)
A stylish musical starring opera soprano Gitta Alpar. Director Istvan Szekely later changed his name to Steve Sekely and built a career in Hollywood.
Gaál Béla (Born: January 2, 1893 in Dombrád, Austria-Hungary [now Hungary] - Died: February 18, 1945 (age 52) in Concentration Camp Dachau, Germany)
'The Dream Car' (1934, Meseautó - Bela Gaal)
A sophisticated comedy of errors that's staged with finesse. It was remade in the U K as 'Car Of Dreams' (1935).
Marton Endre (Born: January 26, 1904 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary - Died: January 7, 1992 (age 87) in Santa Monica, California, USA)
'Demon Of The Himalayas' (1935, Der Dämon des Himalaya – Endre Marton)
An adventure horror. It's a German production made with Hungarian collaboration. Great movie to watch if you enjoy watching horror movies.
'Miss President' (1935, Elnökkisasszony – Endre Marton)
This comedy starring Lili Murati I find funny. It's basically a workplace satire. Director Endre Marton later changed his name to Andrew Marton and built a career in Hollywood.
Tóth Endre ( Born: May 15, 1913 in Makó, Csongrád, Hungary, Austria-Hungary [now Makó, Hungary] - Died: October 27, 2002 (age 89) in Burbank, California, USA)
'Two Girls On The Street' (1939, Két lány az utcán – Endre Toth)
An absurdist comedy based on a play by Tamas Emod. Director Endre Toth later changed his name to Andre De Toth and built a career in Hollywood.
Andre De Toth, Veronica Lake & Preston Foster
Martonffy Emil (Born: September 9, 1904 in Újpest, Austria-Hungary [now in Budapest, Hungary] - Died: August 20, 1983 (age 78) in Budapest, Hungary)
'One Fool Makes A Hundred' (1942, Egy bolond százat csinál – Emil Martonffi)
A very popular film in Hungary that showcases the talents of comedian Kalman Latabar. It's based on a novel by Mihaly Szule. 'One Fool Makes A Hundred' was remade by filmmaker Bence Gyongyossy in 2006 but I've not seen this version.
Szöts István (Born: June 30, 1912 in Szentgyörgyválya, Austria-Hungary [now Valea Sangeorgiului, Romania] - Died: November 5, 1998 (age 86) in Wien, Austria)
'People Of The Mountains' (1942, Emberek a havason - Istvan Szots)
A film inspired by the short stories of Jozsef Nyiro. 'People Of The Mountains' is set within a woodcutting community in Transylvania. The film was condemned by Joseph Goebbels as being "too Catholic", Nyiro having served in the priesthood. I'd like to see Istvan Szots' second film 'Song Of The Cornfields' (1947) which was banned for religious and political reasons.
Hungary has a long history in animation that's tied to the nation's shifting politics and dates back to cinema's silent era. My favourite Hungarian animator is Gyula Macskassy who was a pioneer in his field and a major industry figure. I like the cartoons made by Macskassy in the 1950s & 1960s.
'A History of Hungarian Animation' : WIKIPEDIA TIMELINE leading up to the 1950s
'The earliest period of Hungarian animation was marked by experimentation and the development of the first animation studio headed by pioneers, Gyula Macskássy and János Halász. Animations were primarily promotional in nature although throughout the 1930s more and more complex narrative structures were developed.
Between 1932 and 1945, 150 promotional cartoons were produced including Családi kávépótló ("Family Coffee Substitute"), Estétől reggelig ("Evening to Morning"), A láthatatlan vendég ("Invisible Visitor"), Zeusz inkognitóban ("Zeus in Cognito"), Vidám suszterinas ("The hilarious shoemaker's boy"), Szerencsés flottás ("Lucky Jim"), and Izzó szerelem ("Glowing Love") During the lead-up to World War II and the turbulent war years, Hungary saw an exodus of artists and filmmakers, particularly among the Hungarian Jewish population. Seeking to continue their art in less politically fraught climates, several Hungarian cartoonists began to establish studios abroad. 1914 - István Kató Kiszly, creator of weekly news bulletins, creates Hungary's first animated film—an animated cut-out cartoon entitled Zrib Ödön. For the next few years he creates several more cut-out cartoons including János Vitez (1916) and the caricatures of Marcell Vértes made in 1918 for the evening news bulletin entitled "Evening" He would go on to animate Rómeó és Júlia ("Romeo and Juliet") in 1921, and Bogárorféum ("The Music Hall of Insects") in 1932. 1914 - Painter, Móric Gábor contracts to make and produces a short animation which is lost during World War I. 1920s - Hungarian Dadaist, György Gerö creates a series of experimental animations including a short film depicting a blooming cactus. He would avoid political prison during the 1940s by committing himself to an asylum as a neurotic. Here, all traces of him were lost. 1920 - Bohemian-born Austro-Hungarian, Berthold Bartosch emigrates to Berlin where he worked with Lotte Reininger on silhouette animation techniques before moving to Paris in 1930 to create L'Idée. 1922 - Hungarian-born Gyula Engel (anglicized as Jules Engel) emigrates to Chicago. He would move to Los Angeles in 1937 to work with Margit Winkler, eventually settling in Hollywood in the late 1930s working for Disney on Fantasia and Bambi and later founding UPA. 1922 - Andor Weininger creates the earliest surviving animated film storyboard script made by a Hungarian. 1924 - Hungarian-born stop-motion animator, István Rajk (Gallicized as Étienne Raïk) settles in Paris. 1928 - Graphic artist, Gyula Macskássy meets János Halász at Műhely, a Bauhaus art studio run by Sándor Bortnyik. Here, short experimental animations are produced under Bortnyik's direction including a piece drawn by Halász depicting a chicken walking in front of an egg—originally intended to become part of the chicken csárdás scene in Bortnyik's unreleased Királyfi és a Hattyútündér ("The Prince and the Swan Fairy"). Only a few fragments of Bortnyk's films remain today. 1929 - Painter, Róbert Berény joins Endre Gál's special effects atelier, Pantofilm, to produce limited animations including Az okos kandúr ("The Clever Tomcat"), and Sabol rovarirtó ("Sabol Insect Repellent"). 1930 - Emigre artist, Győző Vásárhelyi (better known as Victor Vasarely) establishes himself in Paris where he develops his style of kinematic and kinetic art through the use of optical illusion and methods like flip animation. He is joined briefly in the early 1930s by Imre Hajdú who works together with him to paint background sets. 1930 - János Halász produces short interstitial animations together with György Marczincsák at studio Hunnia. These animations mostly consisted of title sequences and animated inserts to adapt foreign animations for Hungarian audiences. Early 1930s - Emigre artists, Lenke Perényi (better known as Madeleine Steinfield) and Vilma Kiss (variously known as Vilma de Kiss, Vilma de Kish, and Wilma de Quiche) settle in Paris to produce French animations. 1932 - Together with graphic artist Félix Kassowitz, Macskássy and Halász form Hungary's first animation studio, Coloriton, which existed for 4 years, producing high-quality promotion-oriented animations for television and cinema including Boldog király kincse ("The Treasure of the Joyful King"). The three men are joined by caricaturist Ernő Szénássy and musician Gusztáv Ilosvay. Toward the end of Coloriton's existence, the studio expanded briefly into the UK where the daughter studio, British Colour Cartoon Films Limited, was formed under Halász' supervision. 1932 - Emigre cartoonist, Imre Hajdú (better known by his stage name, Jean Image—"Image" is based upon the French pronunciation of "Im-Haj", the initial syllables of his full name) establishes himself in France to produce nearly two dozen animated films during his lifetime. 1933 - Imre Tóth (better known as Amerigo Tot) works on an animated adaptation of Pinocchio. The film has since been lost. 1934 - Emigre cartoonist, György Pál Marczincsák (better known by his stage name, George Pal) first moves to Germany where he creates Habakuk and Der Kollege while developing the concept of Puppetoons (originally called Pal-dolls). He would move shortly afterward to Holland for Philips to create Philips Cavalcade (1934) and The Sleeping Beauty (1935), and then to Paris and then Eindhoven where he founded and worked at puppet animation studio Dollywood until 1939. Establishing himself in Hollywood in 1940, Pal worked for Paramount where he produced several more shorts in the Puppetoons series and won several Oscars. 1934 - Artist Béla Balázs emigrates to the Soviet Union where he creates "A Vor" (Russian: Вор). 1936 - Cartoonist János Halász (anglicized as John Halas) emigrates to found Halas and Batchelor Studio in London with his wife, Joy Batchelor in 1940. Here he finds the political freedom to produce a number of works including his most famous work, Animal Farm (1954). He would later be granted an OBE in 1972, would become the president of ASIFA in 1979, and would play an essential role in Hungary's first three animated film festivals (KAFF events). Late 1930s - Hungarian animation within Hungary continues through the efforts of animators like István Balogh, Viktor Kálmán, Félix Kassowitz, and István Valker. During this period Valker famously creates Orosz álom ("Russian Dream"), Tiroli tánc ("Dance of Tyrol"), and Sztepptánc ("Step-Dance"), a series of three live action and animation pictures starring child actress, Ági Polly. Valker's techniques were developed independent of prior similar efforts abroad, but in Hungary the concept was considered unworkable, and the films met with poor reception. 1938-1944 - Valker creates Csavargó szerencséje ("A Vagabond's Luck") and, with the help of Teréz David, A molnár, a fia meg a szamár ("The Miller, The Miller's Son, and the Donkey"), the latter of which would be completed during the bombing campaign that preceded the 1944 Siege of Budapest 1940 - László Tubay creates A kis balta ("Small Axe") 1946 - István Bessenyei creates Holdszerenád ("Moon-Serenade") 1946 - Emigre cartoonist, Péter Mihály Földes (anglicized as Peter Foldes) established himself in England where he works in collaboration with János Halász before marrying his wife Joan Foldes and establishing an independent studio. Here the couple create the politically charged A Short Vision which won critical acclaim on release in 1956. The couple live briefly in Paris before settling in Canada to produce a number of films for the National Film Board of Canada including the Oscar-nominated Hunger (1975). 1948 - All film-making is nationalized by the Hungarian Communist Party. During the next few years Macskássy worked independently within national channels to create a series of educational films including Az egér és az oroszlán ("The Mouse and the Lion"), Hol az a macska? ("Where's that Cat?"), and Uhuka, a kis bagoly ("Uhuka, the Little Owl"). A number of short films were released at a slow rate by other artists as well. 1948 - Zoltán Olcsai Kiss creates the puppet-animation, Megy a juhász a szamáron ("Shepherd's Riding a Donkey"), the first animated film following nationalization of the industry. He creates Vitamin ABC two years later in 1950. 1950 - Emigre cartoonist, Teréz David (anglicized as Tissa David), moves to Paris, eventually establishing herself in New York City in 1955.'
- Wikipedia timeline
Animator, stop-motion artist & stop-action puppeteer György Pál Marczincsak, who became George Pal in America, was born in Cegléd
Macskássy Gyula (Born: February 4, 1912 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary [now Hungary] - Died: October 29, 1971 (age 59) in Budapest, Hungary)
'The Cockroach Diamond In A Half-Cage' (1951, A kiskakas gyémánt félkrajcárja - Edit Fekete & Gyula Macskassy)
'Forest Sports Competition' (1952, Erdei sportverseny - Edit Fekete & Gyula Macskassy)
'The Insatiable Bee' (1958, A telhetetlen méhecske - Gyula Macskassy)
'Gyula Macskássy was a cartoon director and graphic artist. He was one of the founding fathers of Hungarian animation, and was a prolific advertising artist as well. He studied at Sándor Bortnyik’s private school Műhely, then, one of the greatest poster artists of the time, Róbert Berény became his master. He started in the 1930s as a graphic artist by designing posters for the oral care products of thr company called Diana among others. They had some joint projects with his brother János Macskássy for big companies, like Tungsram (manufacturer of light bulbs and vacuum tubes) and Nikotex (tobacco products). Their style emerged from the clear and monumental modernist design that was developing in Hungary during the second half of the 1920s. This advancement of the modernis style was led by Macskássy's master, Berény in cooperation with Bortnyik and Kassák. It also drew inspiration from the style, and resembled some graphic elements of cartoons, and their works were mostly characterized by light-heartedness. In the 1940s he worked on animated commercials together with Félix Kassovitz and János Halász (John Halas). In the 1950s he founded the Hungarian animation production. His films were influenced by the work of Walt Disney, but he soon developed a typical Hungarian, unique style. Caricature, abstract painting and folk art also had an impact on his works. In the 1950s he still worked as graphic designer as well: he created many poster designs national companies. He often worked together with Gyula Fejes in the late 1940s and early 1950s, on commercial posters. In the 1950s they designed posters together with his brother János Macskássy for tobacco products, lottery, and for the national travel agency, Maszovlet. Their style never changed into socialist realism; their approach was always playful, cartoon-like and humorous.'
Keleti Márton (Born: April 27, 1905 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary [now Hungary] - Died: June 20, 1973 (age 68) in Budapest, Hungary)
Marton Keleti was a protege of Hungarian filmmaker Paul Fejos (aka. Pál Fejös) who directed several classic films in Hollywood, including 'Lonesome' (1928) which showcases the music of Yiddish composer Joseph Cherniavsky who'd traveled down through Russia and Ukraine into Czech territory. Keleti also studied under filmmaker Fritz Lang, having graduated from Max Reinhardt's theatre school.
'Strange Marriage' (1951, Különös házasság - Marton Keleti)
A depressed religious drama based upon a story of enforcement and entrapment written by novelist Kalman Mikszath.
Gyula Benkő & Hédi Temessy
'Two Confessions' (1957, Két vallomás - Marton Keleti)
A gritty youth drama about small-time criminals caught within the grip of gang culture.
A coming-of-age story about wayward schoolgirls trying to find their path in life.
'The Corporal And Others' (1965, A tizedes meg a többiek - Marton Keleti)
A deserter's comedy about the absurdity of war that's scripted by Marton Keleti's regular collaborator Imre Dobozi.
~ A short word on 'The Corporal And The Others' :
Billy Wilder's cynical American prisoner-of-war picture 'Stalag 17' (1953) has became an iconic interpretation of the international conflict that took place during World War 2.
Gerard Oury's WW2 comedy 'The Great Stroll' (1965) is still the third highest earner in French cinema history when it comes to flat domestic takings, ranking only behind James Cameron's disaster movie 'Titanic' (1997) and Dany Boon's fish-out-of-water comedy 'Welcome To The Sticks' (2008).
Poland produced Tadeusz Chmielewski's WW2 comedy 'How I Unleashed World War II' (1970) which is now quoted verbatim by citizens and has come to be regarded as a national monument.
Here in the U K, Oliver Parker's beloved WW2 comedy 'Dad's Army' (2016) is considered an extension of a finely cherished national treasure that some maintain cannot be touched.
'The Corporal And Others' is Hungary's defining World War 2 comedy.
Fábri Zoltán (Born: October 15, 1917 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary [now Hungary] - Died: August 23, 1994 (age 76) in Budapest, Hungary)
Director Zoltan Fabri was known as being meticulous and exacting, but was widely admired for his technical prowess. He manipulated sounds and images to emphasise emotion and said he learnt the language of film by studying works of "poetic realism" created in the 1930s by Marcel Carne, Rene Clair, Julien Duvivier and Jean Renoir. Fabri studied painting under Istvan Reti at the University Of Fine Arts in Budapest and this is reflected in his imagery. There's many films he made I'd like to see - top of my list are 'Storm' (1951), 'Summer Clouds' (1957), 'Brute' (1961), 'Late Season' (1956) & 'The Fifth Seal' (1976).
"Film must be polyphonic." - Zoltan Fabri
'Merry-Go-Round' (1956, Körhinta - Zoltan Fabri)
'Merry-Go-Round' is a romantic, rural tone poem expanded from a short story written by Imre Sakardi. Zoltan Fabri offers a philosophical treatise on collectivised farming that's filled with symbolism. Fairground rides become an instrument of rhythm which proves indicative of what's to come. Here, everything is set to rhythm, be it a ticking clock, a dripping tap, a horse-drawn cart, wind speed or the clank of whirring mechanics. Members of a close-knit farming community move to the rhythms that surround them. The balloon is a motif of freedom, as in Albert Lamorisse's short film 'The Red Balloon' (1956) which arrived this same year.
"Merry-Go-Round was taken to the Cannes Film Festival in April. Fábri, along with Sarkadi and Jószef Darvas (from the Ministry of Culture), left Budapest’s Eastern (Keleti) Railway station on the evening of 20 April. Merry-Go-Round was shown on Sunday 22 April and was enthusiastically received although it failed to clinch any major prize. The much-coveted Palme d’Or went, unusually, to a documentary (something that was not to be repeated until 2004 with Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11), The Silent World shot by a combination of French director Louis Malle and popular oceanologist Jacques Cousteau. The jury which consisted of, amongst others, Otto Preminger, Sergei Vassiliev and President Maurice Lehman, was rumoured to be favourably inclined to Merry-Go-Round but decided, for reasons which are not clear, to go for the Malle-Cousteau film instead. One young film critic, a regular and combative contributor to the prestigious Cahiers du Cinema, was adamant that the major prize should have gone to Merry-Go-Round and that Mari Törőcsik should also have received a prize. His name was François Truffaut and in the French newspaper Temps de Paris he made his point by nominating Fábri’s film for his own ‘Grand Prix’ and Mari Törőcsik as best actress (a viewpoint incidentally not shared by the two other Temps de Paris reporters, Guy de Arcangues and Michel Gall). Truffaut who regularly annoyed the French film establishment was contemptuous of the whole Cannes set-up : 'In his early days as a critic Truffaut scathingly dismissed the mediocrity of Cannes; banner headlines (‘Cannes – a failure dominated by compromise, scheming and blunders’) heralded a fierce denunciation of the Festival which brought protests even from Henri Langlois of the French Cinematheque and resulted in Truffaut being overlooked by the organisers of the 1957 festival.' ('Finally Truffaut', Don Allen) : According to Apor Noémi when the winners were announced there was much derisive whistling from the audience. Quite why Merry-Go-Round never received a prize is a mystery as critics and reviewers praised the film in no uncertain terms. Many years later in an interview with the Hungarian newspaper Kurir, Fábri suggested that pressure had been brought to bear on the jury, though by whom and why is not at all clear. Always the gentleman Fábri also thought Truffaut’s behaviour was ‘rude.’ It is possible that Merry-Go-Round was sacrificed to Cold War tensions between the USA and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries were eager participants at Cannes, success often meant lucrative ‘hard currency’ distribution in the West and the added bonus of putting one over on an ideological rival. The Americans for their part were just as eager to demonstrate the superiority of their product. The 1956 Soviet entry was Sergei Yukevich’s adaptation of Othello, while the US offered the now little-known I’ll Cry Tomorrow directed by Daniel Mann. Yukevich won Best Director prize while Susan Hayward won Best Performance for her part in I’ll Cry Tomorrow; maybe Merry-Go-Round simply didn’t fit into the pattern for that year of dividing the spoils.
- John Cunningham (Lecturer in Film Studies at Sheffield Hallam University), Fantom
"When sitting for the first time on the merry-go-round, the centrifugal power made it impossible to photograph what I wanted to. Therefore we built a plank in the place of the seat, fastened to which I was able to work under safe conditions, but even so I had to experiment for days to come before I realised how you had to film on the merry-go-round rotating at high speed. The placement of the lamps was another difficult question, since I was to photograph the whole range of vision, and thus the lamps could not be placed as usual behind the camera. After some experimenting we found the best solution, placing the lamps in the centre of the merry-go-round."
- Barnabas Hegyi, 'The Balloons Of Freedom'
A day out in 'A Day In The Country' (1936) / A day at the funfair in 'Merry-Go-Round' (1956)
'Professor Hannibal' (1956, Hannibál tanár úr - Zoltan Fabri)
A political drama, based on a novel by Ferenc Mora, in which a teacher is unwittingly exploited by far-right politicians.
"Filmmaking, probably like any other art form, is structured like a chain, where everybody is connected to somebody else. Everybody learns from somebody. And if that person is lucky, then he or she might be able to give back something. Miklos Jancso never denied that he followed Michelangelo Antonioni. Theo Angelopoulos never denied that he saw a Jancso film. And even Bela Tarr could not deny that he is a part of this very chain.
Therefore, with everyone whose film we deem important, Zoltan Fabri has his place in the chain of film history. Clearly enough, Fabri was connected to expressionism, that, as a matter of fact started with German silent cinema. This is perfectly obvious in 'Hannibal', and also obvious in his later films."
- Istvan Szabo, 'We Are Flying, Mary'
'Sweet Anna' (1958, Édes Anna - Zoltan Fabri)
Experimental drama set in 1919 that applies stream-of-consciousness to a woman on the verge of mental derangement. It's an adaptation of a novel written by Dezso Kosztolanyi. The film examines the toxic aftermath of the 1st World War. There's a drug-induced dream sequence, that's been referenced by horror filmmakers, which includes an extraordinary shot of a swing through an eyeball.
“Whenever there is a way, I try to make films in order to raise my voice against the humiliation of man by man, against anyone’s being at the mercy of others. By no means do I nurture any illusion as if this could be stopped by films or even by hundreds of films, but still there is the call of an inner ethic order, to make aware or thoughtful, since in man there is the inclination, due to his cowardice, lack of faith, fears and an instilled tendency of prejudice, to become a stranger to his own life, to his freer options, even if he has the chance to insist on them.”
- Zoltan Fabri, ': Improvised Self-Confession'
'Two Half-Times In Hell' (1961, Két félidő a pokolban - Zoltan Fabri)
Influential sports drama inspired by "The Death Match" (1942), a game of football played in Kiev, Ukraine between occupying German soldiers and their prisoners. John Huston remade the film as 'Victory' (1981).
"Sadly for that magical Hungarian side, they did not quite fulfil their extraordinary potential. Having obliterated the opposition by scoring 25 goals in four games to reach the 1954 World Cup final, they lost a controversial final 3-2 to West Germany despite going 2-0 ahead after eight minutes, a game the Germans still call the Miracle of Berne. The statistics show that this was a Hungary side incomparable not only in its era but in any. In a six-year, 50-game period, the World Cup final was their only defeat as Puskas et al won 42 games and drew seven, scoring a breathtaking 215 goals along their way. Indeed, using the World Football Elo Ratings system, the Hungarians of the mid-1950s are the highest ranked team of all time. "Imagine the best team you've ever seen - that Hungarian side is easily as good, if not better," said Sewell. "It wasn't just us who were baffled by them. Everyone was." Truly, the Magical Magyars are a team that should never be forgotten."
- Jonathan Stevenson, 'When The Magic Magyars Illuminated Wembley'
'The Boys Of Paul Street' (1968, A Pál-utcai fiúk - Zoltan Fabri)
Adapted from a popular novel by Ferenc Molnar, 'The Boys Of Paul Street' is a period piece about schoolboys engaged in a turf war.
"Zoltan Fabri was a contradictory personality. Maybe, due to his strictness and accuracy, which to the superficial viewer might have seemed pedantry, his students nicknamed him the "Japanese Gym Teacher". It is unknown with whom or when it originated, nor what this name exactly referred to.
Due to his powerful films we always looked up to him. He was the Himalayas. He was a model to us, even if we as young people wished to realise a lot of things in some different way. Humaneness, poise, correctness, openness, no indulgence in any games, and that in all kinds of situations and relations, standing up in a determined and open demeanour for one's opinion and conviction, honesty - I think it was Fabri from whom I learnt the importance of all these things.
He didn't teach this as a teacher - this would have been impossible - but he himself was the example of how to exist and to behave according to the above expectations. What I am today has largely been affected by my one-time, class-leading professor, Zoltan Fabri. Therefore I always remember him in love and gratitude."
- Attila Janisch, 'The Japanese Gym Teacher'
'Rondeau Fantastique Sur Un Thème Espagnol "El Contrabandista"' - Franz Liszt
'The Toth Family' (1969, Isten hozta, őrnagy úr! - Zoltan Fabri)
A military comedy about the value of family.
“Turning to eternal themes of mankind, Zoltán Fábri brings them to life by virtue of some irresistible poetry.”
– Andre Bazin
Vera Venczel, Márta Fónay & Imre Sinkovits
"In the years 1945–1989, a reader interested in Hungarian cinema could learn a lot about it from the Polish press, not only film-specific, although the number of publications devoted to this subject differed across time. The most prolific period was the sixties and seventies, mainly due to the contemporary achievements of the Hungarian cinema, as well as Polish critics’ enthusiasm for it. It is not difficult to notice certain recurrent phrases and motifs etc. Hungarian cinema gained acclaim several years ago, but how is it thought of today? Historical and political themes, as well as comparisons between Hungarian and Polish cinema have been noted. Hungarian movies were frequently part of a special pool whose outlets included studio cinemas and film societies. On the one hand, it had limited access, but on the other, they reached those who were truly interested. Critics realized that not all films were intended for wide distribution. In such a situation, it is no wonder that Hungarian cinematography was extensively discussed by “Kultura Filmowa”, and later “Film na Świecie”, magazines connected with the Polish Federation of Film Societies (these were often reprints of Hungarian magazines). The role of the Hungarian Institute of Culture, which willingly provided copies of films, was also significant. Hungarian filmmakers often visited Poland and meetings with them were very well attended."
- Piotr Zwierzchowski, 'The Reception Of Hungarian Cinema In Polish Film Criticism, 1945–1989'
Makk Károly (Born: December 22, 1925 in Berettyóújfalu, Hungary - Died: August 30, 2017 (age 91) in Budapest, Hungary)
Political filmmaker Karoly Makk was one of Hungary's leading comic directors before turning to heavy drama. At a certain point, Makk became a strong-willed advocate of affirmative action as he battled censorship and state oppression in his homeland. He remained committed to the truth and was uncompromising which led to frequent clashes with the authorities who tried unsuccessfully to silence him. Makk showed the world what it was really like living behind the curtain of a totalitarian regime that was being propped up by a foreign dictator. His shadow cinema of smoke and mirrors is elegant but chilling.
"It’s unlikely that Károly Makk consciously established himself as the yang to Miklós Jancsó’s yin, but their careers had striking parallels. From the early 1950s to the early 2010s, each turned out dozens of films (many unknown outside their native Hungary) that typically revolved around a probing investigation into an aspect of the country’s complex political history. But where Jancsó was a flamboyant ringmaster, Makk favoured subtlety, introspection and a spare, unflowery style. Born in Berettyóújfalu, eastern Hungary, on 22 December 1925, Makk worked up the film-industry hierarchy in the traditional way, starting as an assistant before graduating to screenwriter and director, making his debut in the latter capacity with 'Colony Underground' (1951), co-directed with Mihály Szemes. He made his first international splash with his fourth feature (his second as sole helmer), the Cannes-competing comedy 'Liliomfi' (1954), which was the first of ten collaborations with the actor Iván Darvas."
- Michael Brooke, The British Film Institute
Mari Törőcsik, Károly Makk & Lili Darvas
'Don't Keep Off The Grass' (1960, Fűre lépni szabad - Karoly Makk)
A comedy concerning local politics in which an offer to secure housing for a working-class family lands a council chairman with an accommodation problem that threatens to become intrusive.
"I made all of my films, even the worst one, with me in the story with a gesture, a sentence or a look. It is terribly suspicious in this profession if someone can make a comedy just as well as another genre."
- Karoly Makk, Magyar Narancs
Gyöngyi Polónyi & Géza Tordy
'What Did Your Majesty Do From 3 To 5?' (1964, Mit csinált felséged 3-tól 5-ig? – Karoly Makk)
A cineliterate historical comedy in which a put-upon King with domestic issues learns about true responsibility from his own subjects.
"Karoly Makk was born in the town of Berettyóújfalu, in eastern Hungary, where his father, Kálmán, owned a cinema, which gave his son the chance to watch many movies. His parents, who like many Hungarians had lost their business after the country came under Soviet rule, initially intended him to become an engineer, a common profession on his mother’s side of the family. Instead, he entered the nationalised film industry, working his way up from assistant to screenwriter and director." - Ronald Bergan, The Guardian
Teri Tordai, Éva Pap & Ildikó Pécsi
'Love' (1971, Szerelem - Karoly Makk)
A young woman comforts her husband's mother when he's arrested by secret police operating under the orders of Joseph Stalin. 'Love' is a pensive drama that's drawn together from two short stories written by Tibor Dery. Karoly Makk experiments with space and time, approaching the subject of memory through elliptical inserts.
"Directors fighting seemingly insuperable odds often make their finest films. This was frequently true of the film-makers of eastern Europe, where the authorities took pride in supporting film but where there was also constant political censorship. "It's dangerous," the great Polish director Andrzej Wajda once said, "but there are ways to get round political censorship. There are no ways to get round the censorship of money that you have in the west, which is much stronger."
Karoly Makk's 'Love' did so with particular success. Makk had to wait five years before he could make 'Love', one of the most moving commentaries on life under political tyranny that I have ever seen. The tyrant concerned was (Matyas) Rakosi, one of the last of the Russian puppets who ruled Hungary with a rod of iron and made political opponents disappear. One such prisoner is Janos, in jail on a trumped-up charge. His wife and sick mother await his return home."
- Derek Malcolm, The Guardian
"If editing is a craft whose quality can be assessed objectively, then György Sívó surely deserves a lot of credit for 'Love' (1971). Similarly to Makk’s Cat’s Play (1972), also edited by Sívó, the narrative of the film evolves around constant flashbacks and dream sequences. Memories and phantasies invade the bedroom and merge with its everyday objects, which in turn are skillfully captured by cinematographer János Tóth."
- Konstanty Kuzma, East European Film Bulletin
"The film's montage technique functions primarily as an aesthetic embellishment to create diegetic subjectivities within a completely linear story."
- Miklos Kiss, 'Rationalizing The Irrational : Artistic Realism As Cognitive Reality In Karoly Makk’s Szerelem/Love'
"More than merely marking a new era, 'Love' was a work of epochal transition. Between the social analyses of the sixties and the "aestheticism" of the seventies, carrying on the first and pioneering the often condemned formalism of the latter, it belongs to both movements or neither. In the sixties the artistic avant-garde brought the historical-social-political sensibilities of the age to the vanguard of the intellectual élite in the wake of European modernist film, while the seventies saw the divorce of social and artistic avant-gardism. The process was essentially analogous to the periodical fluctuation of cinematic "isms", from the twenties' Soviet avant-gardism to the French New Wave. This crisis of the seventies may therefore be regarded a "natural" process that was quite independent of film. Indeed, it has been pointed out many times that this decade saw no fewer masterpieces or major works, nor a decline in significant auteurships. However, after 1968, artists' commitment to social progress wavered, and after the repressions of 1973–74 it became purely illusory. Hungarian film was all but entirely subjected to the requirements of state cultural policy, and for two decades, until 1989, it was confronted with the illegitimate norms of the sixties. This long shadow could only be transcended by peripheral experiments, genres, movements and oeuvres."
- Gabor Gelencser, Metropolis
Lili Darvas & Mari Törőcsik
'Cat's Play' (1972, Macskajáték - Karoly Makk)
A fragmentary tale of two distant sisters who exchange letters. One sister lives in Germany, while the other remains in Hungary. It's based on a novel by Istvan Orkeny.
"While Károly Makk and his cinematographer János Tóth prepared their film 'Cats’ Play', which was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category, they started working on an association montage technique, which they had in fact already used in their earlier collaborative work, 'Love'. This is how the latter film became the story of two women. The older woman has obstinately lived almost a century waiting for her son, but she’s about to give up. The younger woman remains faithful to her husband and as she wants to live her whole life with him, she cannot give up. The life shared by these two women is about love and dignity. But if there were also powerful connections in the sensitive relationship between the two, it wouldn’t be love and dignity, but rather devotion."
- Nora Kinga Forgacs, 'A Film That Does Not Age'
Ildikó Piros & Éva Dombrádi
In search of recollection in 'Cat's Play'
'Another Way' (1982, Egymásra nézve - Karoly Makk)
A moral drama about intimacy and ethics. 'Another Way' is based on an auto-biographical book penned by Erzsebet Galgoczi.
"In Hungary, the film industry is small so everyone knows each other."
- Karoly Makk
Grazyna Szapolowska & Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak
'Mizrab' - Gábor Szabó
“I know now, what I didn’t then, that affection can’t always be expressed in calm, orderly, articulate ways; and that one cannot prescribe the form it should take for anyone else.”
In March 2016, Somerset House in London hosted the first major retrospective of Gyorgy Kovasznai's artwork in the United Kingdom. This same year, a retrospective of Kovasznai's work was mounted in Miami, Florida, which is believed to have been the first exhibition of its kind to be held in the United States of America.
Koyasznai reshaped Hungary's animation landscape by combining a wide array of techniques culled from different disciplines. In doing so, he created subversive art that was frowned upon by the state and often left audiences divided. His eye-opening visions of the nation's coal mines, for example - which he drew in the 1950s - depicted the gruelling nature of the job rather than celebrate the victory of a hard day's work (as had come to be expected). He made more than 20 short subject films and at least 1 feature-length film, 'Bubble Bath' (1980), which was a massive commercial flop that prompted mini-revolts and audience walkouts. Kovasznai was also a musician, philosopher, author and poet.
Kovásznai György (Born: May 15, 1934 in Budapest, Hungary - Died: June 28, 1983 (age 49) in Budapest, Hungary)
'Tales From The World Of Art' (1965, Mesék a müvészet világából - Gyorgy Kovasznai)
Jancsó Miklós (Born: September 27, 1921 in Vac, Hungary - Died: January 31, 2014 (age 92) in Budapest, Hungary)
Miklos Jancso directed many historical films and frequently delved into fantasy. As a young man he studied law, art history and ethnography, all of which served to underscore his elliptical narratives, enigmatic visuals and elaborate use of subtext. His films were carefully choreographed which allowed him to shoot using long takes. He often dealt with themes associated with an abuse of power and he provoked anger among conservatives over his embrace of cannabis, liberalism and hippiedom. His films are expertly staged, adventurously lensed, overtly symbolic and entirely distinctive.
Jancso experienced incredible highs as an artist but also endured bitter disappointments. Notably, he was unable to complete his planned 'Hungarian Rhapsody' historical trilogy, though he did direct the first two films - 'Hungarian Rhapsody' (1979) and 'Allegro Barbaro' (1979) - neither of which I've seen since they've drifted into obscurity. His son Nyika Jancso has become one of the Hungarian film industry's leading cinematographers, his daughter Katalin Jancso is a costume designer and his son David Jancso is an editor.
"Open almost any issue of Sight & Sound between the mid 1960s and mid 70s and you’d be left in little doubt that Miklós Jancsó ranked among cinema’s immortals. If the synopses of his films make them sound forbiddingly parochial (since they almost invariably revolved around aspects of his native Hungary’s history), their visual and visceral impact could hardly be more immediate. The language that Jancsó forged, drawn as much from dance choreography as conventional dramaturgy, remains utterly distinctive to this day. This is partly because he has had hardly any imitators (long-take maestros Theo Angelopoulos and Béla Tarr were closest to being Jancsó acolytes, but each had a powerfully independent vision of his own), but mostly because it was drawn from the very particular circumstances that he enjoyed as a Hungarian filmmaker. Not only was he able to make regular use of the puszta, that great featureless plain so characteristic of his country’s topography (and which has few equivalents elsewhere in Europe, making a British or French Jancsó scarcely imaginable), but as an internationally recognised artist in a Communist country he was granted access to dozens, sometimes hundreds and occasionally even thousands of extras – and horses – with which to populate his increasingly extravagant visions. And if censorship frequently forced him into allegory and symbolism, that was often to the film’s advantage, not least in appealing to non-Hungarian audiences who might not otherwise grasp the political and cultural nuances. Jancsó’s film career spanned six full decades, from his newsreel-directing debut in 1950 (he quipped that making newsreels under Stalin was an admirable training-ground for making fiction later) to his final feature in 2010. He was dauntingly prolific and there are hardly any significant intervals in his filmography. Even when, like most eastern European filmmakers, he struggled to make features in the cash-strapped post-communist 1990s, he simply returned to documentary filmmaking before enjoying an unlikely career revival with six raucous low-budget comedies (1999-2006). These featured two gravediggers, Pepe (Zoltán Mucsi) and Kapa (Péter Scherer), copious references to Hungarian history and culture, and a great deal of postmodern self-referentiality – Jancsó himself appeared on camera as ‘Uncle Miki’, garnering a cult following among younger Hungarian audiences who had never heard of him before."
- Michael Brooke, 'High Plains Visionary : Miklós Jancsó, 1921-2014'
'Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 in D-Flat Major' - Franz Liszt (performed by Martha Argerich)
'My Way Home' (1965, Így jöttem - Miklos Jancso)
A semi-autobiographical account of a Hungarian soldier caught between retreating German forces and advancing Soviet soldiers towards the end of the 2nd World War.
"Critic Penelope Houston is wrong to describe Jancsó as Bressonian. Both Jancsó and Bresson are minimalists; whereas Bresson is individualistic, however, Jancsó is epical and historical. His films, including 'My Way Home' (Így jöttem), reflect Hungary’s tragic history of enslavement and fierce drive toward national independence and freedom. Bresson’s brilliant cinema exists in the moment, poised in the direction of some further grace ahead. Soulfully, 'My Way Home' gathers up past feelings and hopes something worthwhile lies ahead — here, not in heaven."
- Dennis Grunes, 'My Way Home'
'The Round-Up' (1966, Szegénylegények - Miklos Jancso)
The after-effects of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, as led by Lajos Kossuth, continue to reverberate. People interned in a prison camp must choose their allegiance.
"Born in 1921, Miklós Jancsó has never ceased to make intensely political films, which may be one reason he is so little known outside his native Hungary. More simply, the biggest reason may be that his films are “difficult,” even as art-house fare back in its ’60s heyday. Jancsó’s historical films, like 'The Red and the White', are punishingly bleak in tone and outcome. Such a tone was all well and good for cineastes of the ’60s and ’70s, but the director’s oblique way with his narratives challenged even the most dedicated among them. 'The Round-Up' and 'The Red and the White' make up two-thirds of a triptych of similarly conceived films, of which the final is 'Silence and Cry' (Csend és kiáltás, 1967). Like a lot of postwar cinema from former Eastern bloc countries, it’s difficult not to read metaphors of Soviet oppression into the content of these three films, especially considering the brutal Communist clampdown of 1956 that Hungary had suffered, but with Jancsó this sightline is not so deliberately enforced. As an initiate to this trio of films, the first thing you notice is not any political stance but the beauty of the immaculate black-and-white pictorials. Coupled with Jancsó’s famous long takes, demurral of montage, and the fluidity of his tracking shots, the visuals are formally downright apollonian, an odd aesthetic stance, you would think, in the depiction of the horrors of brute occupation. In her essay, Penelope Houston says this aesthetic has “the lure of the cloister, the white habit, discipline and rigor, the Bressonian impression of spiritual geometry.” And, as with Bresson, this is exactly where Jancsó’s unique frisson takes place. The director’s first truly characteristic film, 'The Round-Up', backgrounds its period and political context in a brief sardonic text introduction, but the actions of the characters, especially on first viewing, are often enigmatic. The sparse, hard-to-follow storyline lacks a protagonist, and in any case, the oppressed and the oppressors are mostly unnamed. Few filmgoers enjoy being lost in a film, and for much of 'The Round-Up' you feel stranded and perplexed, like the prisoners themselves. But Jancsó has designs on you, just as the jailers have plans for their charges. The narrative’s purposeful arc is made clear only in the final “round-up” at film’s end, which is a switcheroo closing of deadly irony."
- Gordon Thomas, Bright Lights Film Journal
'The Red And The White' (1967, Csillagosok, katonák - Miklos Jancso)
Hungarians in Russia stand divided when the Red Army and the White Army clash in their attempt to seize power during the Russian Civil War sparked in 1917.
'Silence And Cry' (1968, Csend és kiáltás - Miklos Jancso)
In 1919, a far-right counter-revolution in Hungary leads to violence, intimidation and mass persecution.
Mari Törőcsik, Andrea Drahota & József Madaras
'The Confrontation' (1969, Fényes szelek - Miklos Jancso)
In 1947, the Communist party has assumed control of Hungary and some students wish to create marxist college programmes. Local Catholic students stand in opposition.
"Miklós Jancsó’s films should not simply be read as symbolic allegory but seen as decorative works. The trajectory of Jancsó’s career is not just a process of purification, but also a re-rendering of his film’s content to better fit his formal interests – in particular his shift towards sequence shots filmed as circular movement. Symbolism is important not because it represents but because symbols can be arranged and re-arranged in a manner more pleasing than the motivations of realism. The Confrontation’s story and staging debate the role of the circle and ornamentation. This is both explicit and implied. Unlike the minimal use of dialogue found in Jancsó’s earlier (and later) films, 'The Confrontation' is overwhelmed by verbose debate as to the best way to communicate."
- John Edmond, Senses Of Cinema
'A Történtek Után' - Kati Kovács
'Red Psalm' (1972, Még kér a nép - Miklos Jancso)
A small peasant community revolts in Hungary in 1890.
"Miklós Jancsó’s films are sometimes described as cold and stylized exercises with minimalist and disturbing narratives, lacking protagonists one can engage with. Or is the reason for his obscure status to be found in his critical treatment of Hungarian history and his explicit thematization of Marxist politics? In the formation of his political thought, Jancsó was influenced by one of his compatriots, the Marxist philosopher and film buff György Lukács. Lukács believed in the social potential of cinema and was convinced that “dogmas are the archenemy of creative Marxism.” Cinema has to self-examine, pose questions and debate instead of offering cut-and-dried answers or corny socialist-realist happy endings. This theoretical approach is reflected in the practice of Jancsó’s open-ended films. They offer a fascinating combination of political commitment and extreme aestheticization, something Jancsó called “the middle way” and J. Hoberman aptly described as “red modernism.” All of Jancsó’s early films are embedded in Hungarian history and explicitly refer to major wars, revolutions and revolts."
- Tim Deschaumes, 'Remembering Miklós Jancsó : A Long Take On His Early Oeuvre'
'Electra, My Love' (1975, Szerelmem, Elektra - Miklos Jancso)
An adaptation of a play by Laszlo Gyurko that's inspired by the Greek mythology surrounding Electra, daughter of King Agamemnon.
"It isn't an exaggeration to say that permanent revolution, as symbolised by a red helicopter in the closing scene of 'Szerelmem, Elektra' (Elektreia, 1974), is the encompassing principle of Jancso's work on a stylistic and conceptual level."
Aristocrats indulge their extravagant sexual impulses at an exclusive country retreat.
"First and foremost, Franz Liszt was a colossal pianist, the most awesome virtuoso of his era, who in his playing and his compositions for piano pushed the boundaries of technique, texture and sound. As a composer, beyond his works for piano, Liszt was the inventor of the orchestral tone poem and an inspired songwriter, and he produced a body of sublime sacred choral works. As a conductor, he introduced seminal scores, including Wagner’s “Lohengrin,” in Weimar. Liszt was the most consequential piano teacher of his time. He taught some 400 students over 40 years, in line with his notion of “génie oblige,” the obligation of genius, and never accepted payment for the lessons, much to the chagrin of rival pedagogues. Liszt was also, Mr. Walker emphasized, a festival organizer and an important writer of essays, program notes and criticism."
- Anthony Tommasini, 'For Liszt, Experimentation Was A Form Of Greatness'
"Genius" doesn't even begin to explain the talents and abilities of Frank Liszt. Though as a child his teacher, Czerny, was awed by how quickly the youth grasped concepts and played with ease, Liszt wasn't considered as a prodigy on the level of, say, a Mozart or Mendelssohn. In fact, it wouldn't be until his early adulthood that the public in general (and specifically his peers), that his gifts became apparent. Widely considered the greatest virtuoso who ever lived, his ability to astound as a performer was merely part of the whole. The other aspects which did not go unnoticed and helped foster the legend of Liszt was his prodigious output in compositions, and his knack for sight-reading (regardless of difficulty). The story of how he played Grieg's A minor Concerto at first glance, in front of the composer, is in itself indicative to the wizardry of Liszt. Other accounts of his sight-reading virtually anything, whether it be solo works or even orchestral, are backed up by his contemporaries. Suffice to say, Liszt could do it all. In Eleanor Perenyi's biography of him, she suggests that he was something of "a collage" in that he had so many strengths. This is echoed by Harold Schoenberg, when he opined that 'many musicians thought it unfair that one man should be able to have so many multiple talents.' Liszt was a genius in many areas, and though his remarkable oeuvre may not be as universally embraced as Mozart, Chopin, or Mendelssohn, he nonetheless possessed their individual powers."
- Rodney Chin, 'Franz Liszt : Piano Virtuoso'
'Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-Sharp Minor' - Franz Liszt (performed by Valentina Lisitsa)
Szabó István (Born: February 18, 1938 in Budapest, Hungary)
Istvan Szabo's distressing life has been marked by press stories of distraction, deflection and deception, all of which are themes explored within his films. Details of his life have been contended by scholars, but it seems that it's known he came from a long line of doctors. It's also believed that his family was persecuted during the war for being Jewish, yet had actually converted to Catholicism. Szabo lost his father from a very young age, later becoming a secret, low-level informant for the communist regime's secret police, a chapter in his life that remains shrouded in mystery. Forced to take sides since his disrupted birth, this disturbing duality has played a major role in his storytelling.
Szabo is known within the Hungarian film industry as a formidable technician. He's also an opera director who brings a distinct musicality to all of his work in cinema. His early films experiment with space and time, tripping memory and triggering reactions. His later films are works of vision, scope and energy, invoking sizeable expenses which has led him to shoot footage all over Europe. As controversial in life as he is in art, Szabo continues to be one of the driving forces behind modern Hungarian cinema.
'Istvan Szabo is considered as one of the filmmakers who has marked the History of cinema. Born in 1938 in Hungary, he discovered in primary school, playing a priest in a play, that his future was in theater. At the end of the forties and early fifties, the neo-realistic Italian cinema made a great impression on him, and he then began studying cinema in Budapest. After the war, he lived in a society built mainly by women, since many men died in combat. This youth has strongly marked him, and is essential for the understanding of his films.'
- Excerpt from a statement released by the Mannheim Film Festival when welcoming Istvan Szabo to introduce a retrospective of his work
"The director’s job is to ensure that everyone feels the same way towards the film during the shooting, because it’s very important from the film direction’s stand point. What is the direction of a movie? It’s what the film’s about, the content of the movie. This leads us to the question that can’t be answered in an exact way. Why do we go to the movies? What does the audience get? A feeling they can take home with themselves, the miracle that happens there and then in that 90 to 120 minutes when the lights go out. A separate little piece of life that the director gives them. In that two hours, you forget about the checks you have to pay, the fight you had with the missus, so basically every real and presumably real problem you have at that time. Instead, you get to enjoy an other life, someone else’s on the screen which you can relate to. István Szabó also mentioned the ever changing rules of filmmaking. But some rules remain: for example you cannot have the same type of shots following each other, because it’s redundant and bores the soul out of the viewers. Except when we want to transmit something, for example, we want the audience to strip naked from the preconceptions built up in the previous shot. But in this case, the new shot needs to tell more, to go further."
- Edit Gardonyi, Budapest Film Academy
'Father' (1966, Apa - Istvan Szabo)
A semi-autobiographical picture connecting childhood memories of World War 2 and the bloody, short-lived rule of the Arrow Cross Party with experiences from the 1956 Hungarian Uprising.
'Lovefilm' (1970, Szerelmesfilm - Istvan Szabo)
An experimental film about childhood sweethearts who possess inter-connected memories from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
András Bálint & Judit Halász
'Confidence' (1980, Bizalom - Istvan Szabo)
A dark drama about a couple forced into hiding during the 2nd World War.
Istvan Szabo's colourful war trilogy unmasks three quietly combative protagonists (all of whom are portrayed by Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer).
"When I interviewed the great Hungarian film-maker István Szabó (b 1938) in his native Budapest, he took me on a tour of the city centre on the Pest side of the Danube. On the way we were distracted by a flashy café designed to lure tourists. It was called Mephisto – after the film by Szabó, presumably, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1981. “I don’t know if it’s named after the film," he said, "but I think it must be because they have used the same typeface.” Then he added, “I’ve never been in there.” Mephisto, based on Klaus Mann's novel, tells of a brilliant Brechtian actor who makes a Faust-like pact with the Third Reich. In Colonel Redl (1985), based on John Osborne’s A Patriot for Me, a high-flying officer in the Austro-Hungarian army struggles to conceal both his Jewishness and his homosexuality. In Hanussen (1988), a clairvoyant predicts the rise of Hitler, luring him into the Nazi web. All three films were at least in part allegories about the moral choices required of those living under Communism. All three films were shot in German, and starred the feline Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer."
- Jasper Rees, The Arts Desk
"There are times in "Mephisto" when the hero tries to explain himself by saying that he's only an actor, and he has that almost right: All he is, is an actor. It's not his fault that the Nazis have come to power, and that as a German-speaking actor he must choose between becoming a Nazi and being exiled into a foreign land without jobs or German actors. As long as he is acting, as long as he is not called upon to risk his real feelings, this man can act his way into the hearts of women, audiences, and the Nazi power structure. This is the story of a man who plays his life wearing masks, fearing that if the last mask is removed, he will have no face. The actor is played by Klaus Maria Brandauer in one of the greatest movie performances I've ever seen. The character is not sympathetic, and yet we identify with him because he shares so many of our own weaknesses and fears. He is not a very good actor or a very good human being, but he is good enough to get by in ordinary times. As the movie opens, he's a socialist, interested in all the most progressive new causes, and is even the proud lover of a black woman. By the end of the film, he has learned that his politics were a taste, not a conviction, and that he will do anything, flatter anybody, make any compromise. "Mephisto'' does an uncanny job of creating its period, of showing us Hamburg and Berlin from the 1920s to the 1940s. I've never seen a movie that does a better job of showing the seductive Nazi practice of providing party members with theatrical costumes, titles and pageantry. In this movie not being a Nazi is like being at a black-tie ball in a brown corduroy suit. Hendrik Hoefgen, the actor, is drawn to this world like a magnet. From his ambitious beginnings in the provincial German theater, he works his way up into more important roles and laterally into more important society."
- Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times
"At the Transilvania International Film Festival last month, Hungarian maestro István Szabó was honoured with a lifetime achievement award — the perfect opportunity to revisit his classic 1980s films, with their uncanny themes of power and fate that ring just as true today. A man willing to sell his soul to the devil — the centuries-old legend of Faust hits so much on the crux of the human condition that it’s been re-envisaged and updated many times to fit the politics of any given era. Russian auteur Alexander Sokurov, who often explores the corrupting effects of power and the struggle for dominance in Europe in his work, delivered a hallucinatory riff on Goethe’s tragic play recently with Faust (2011). But it’s Mephisto (1981) by István Szabó, one of Hungary’s great directors, that transported this tale of traded-in integrity most devastatingly into modern cinema, setting it in the world of German theatre during the rise of the Nazi party. Szabó, now 80, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Transilvania Film Festival in Romania this May for his long, prolific career. Mephisto was among his films shown, as was another classic from his famed trilogy starring Klaus Maria Brandauer, Colonel Redl (1985), about a closeted gay officer amid the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The trilogy as a whole is underpinned by the theme of compromise — of one’s ethics and one’s authentic self, in pursuit of a spectre of success under an immoral regime (the third of the series, which did not screen, is Hanussen (1988), about a Jewish clairvoyant and hypnotist co-opted for Hitler’s propaganda machine)."
- Carmen Gray, The Calvert Journal
István Szabó directs Klaus Maria Brandauer on the set of 'Colonel Redl'
'Meeting Venus' (1991 - Istvan Szabo)
A satirical look at the world of opera.
'Sweet Emma, Dear Bobe' (1992 - Istvan Szabo)
Two women strive to stay together in a bleak, post-communist state. The political drama 'Sweet Emma, Dear Bobe' is a depiction of love and loss that shifted the parameters of Hungarian filmmaking, produced 10 years on from Karoly Makk's equally confrontational romance 'Another Way' (1982).
Enikő Börcsök & Johanna Ter Steege
'Sunshine' (1999 - Istvan Szabo)
An epic dissection of several generations of a Hungarian family who move from crisis to crisis. Part of the story is drawn from the tragic life of fencer Attila Petschauer.
Molly Parker & Ralph Fiennes
'Being Julia' (2004 - Istvan Szabo)
A character study of a theatre actress set in London, England in 1938. It's an adaptation of a novel by W. Somerset Maugham.
"In a fence-mending gesture, European directors Ingmar Bergman, Wim Wenders and Istvan Szabo have sent support letters to American counterparts Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese regarding their artist rights proclamations. The letters follow ads, signed by several Euro helmers, that were critical of the two directors’ stance and suggested they held a naive view of the international marketplace. The brief and similarly worded notes, which were sent on European Film Academy stationery, spelling out areas of agreement. They quoted Scorsese sentiment that “national voices and diversities must be encouraged and protected , but not at the expense of other filmmakers.” From Spielberg, they cited “filmmakers can find no comfort when their film is barred, or restricted or otherwise frustrated, when they try to take out work to the global market.” They ended by stating agreement with the principles, adding: “They should be applied everywhere in the world, in America as well as Europe; in both directions. We’ll fight with you for it.” Tension pertaining to exemptions for cultural industries has been a heated subject as it nears debate in General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade discussions this month. Several European Community members fear the absence of quotas for U.S. product on their television services will signal the demise of already fragile film industries. Daily Variety estimates that only about 4% of the current 1993 American box office was generated by non-U.S. film productions. Non-English-language films represent about 0.8% of the domestic marketplace."
Sándor Pál (Born: October 19, 1939 in Budapest, Hungary)
Pal Sandor is a prolific film and theatre director who now concentrates on producing films for other directors, having retired from helming features in 1996, though he did come out of retirement to direct the comedy 'Noah's Ark' (2007). He's from the Hungarian capital Budapest, a city which is central to some of his films. His melancholic dramas often examine peculiar chapters in human history. Sandor directs actors with musicality, generating atmospheric performances imbued with a sense of rhythm.
'Clowns On The Wall' (1968, Bohóc a falon - Pal Sandor)
An experimental youth picture filmed as a freeform jazz excursion. Pal Sandor captures improvisations with mobile cameras; his quivering, naturalistic crane shots influenced several notable American films including Bob Rafelson's drama 'Five Easy Pieces' (1970) which was photographed by Hungarian cameraman Laszlo Kovacs, and Steven Spielberg's road thriller 'The Sugarland Express' (1974) which was shot by Hungarian cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond.
'Strange Masquerade' (1976, Herkulesfürdöi emlék - Pal Sandor)
A period drama set in 1919 that charts unrest around the fall of the Soviet Republic, focusing on mysterious events surrounding a spa that appears to double as a sanatorium. 'Strange Masquerade' involves some risky roleplay and identity shifts which are tenets of Sandor's work.
'Deliver Us From Evil' (1979, Szabadíts meg a gonosztól - Pal Sandor)
A historical piece set in 1944, beneath the umbrella of fascism, in which the theft of a coat leads to more criminal activity as shady characters emerge from the Budapest underground. It's based on a play by Ivan Mandy whose stories of impoverished communities and crime-ridden districts in Budapest hold great appeal for Sandor.
András Kern, Irén Psota & Erzsébet Kútvölgyi
'Miss Arizona' (1988 - Pal Sandor)
A cabaret folk musical co-conceived by crime writer Agnes Fedor that's inspired by a Budapest nightclub run by Sandor Rozsynai and Mici Senger in the 1930s. This doomed romance bristles beneath the ugly spectre of populist panic.
Hollywood Personals : Hungarian Animators Seeking ...
Graphic artist Marcell Jankovics is one of the most sought-after animators currently active in the entertainment world, with a wide-ranging portfolio that includes poetry, cartoons and sculptures. He joined Pannonia Film Studios in Budapest in 1960. Since then, he's worked as a studio hand and a freelance animator. Jankovics' animations frequently draw from history and mythology and are notable for their bold fronts, defined outlines and depth of colour.
"Hungarian animation director Marcell Jankovics has been creating incredible animation for the past half-century: more than 200 animated titles including commercials, shorts, television series, and feature films. Jankovics drew comics as a young man, inspired by the stories of Oscar Wilde and Ray Bradbury. In 1960, when he was 19 years old, he got a job with Budapest-based Pannonia Film Studios. It took him just five years to climb the career ladder from in-betweener to director, co-directing the popular animated series Gusztáv (Gustav) in 1964. Jankovics went on to direct Hungary’s first feature film, János Vitéz (Johnny Corncob) in what was at the time the country’s only animation studio."
- Tunde Vollenbroek, Cartoon Brew
"The film "The Tragedy of Man" is an adaptation of the poet Imre Madach’s play of the same title, which has been translated into 90 languages and is considered one of the great works of Hungarian literature. The action takes place over the course of one very long dream, as Adam, Eve and a chatty Lucifer visit the world’s great civilizations at the height of their power, only to watch as humanity’s noblest hopes and dreams come to naught. At 15 scenes long, set in 10 different historical periods, the play can be a beast to stage, let alone sit through. “Reading the play is exhausting,” Mr. Jankovics said, “so I think a film is a good solution.” If anyone had dibs on adapting Hungary’s best-known drama into a feature-length animated film, it’s Mr. Jankovics, Hungary’s best-known living animator. In 1976 his film “Sisyphus,” a short-form masterpiece about the doomed, boulder-pushing king, was among the nominees for an Academy Award; the next year his “Kuzdok” (“The Struggle”) won the Palme d’Or for short film at Cannes."
- Robert Ito, The New York Times
"For Fehérlófia (Son of the White Mare), I had originally constructed a basic tale out of several folktales, which explored the concept of the recurring nature of time and space. But the studio manager wouldn’t allow us to make it because of its anti-Marxist interpretation of time! According to Marxism, time is irreversible. Because of this I had to start again with an original folktale."
- Marcell Jankovics, Cartoon Brew
Hungarian national dress adds dimension to traditional dance rituals; the people of Cleveland, Ohio are said to be proud to maintain one of the world's largest and most passionate Hungarian populations, some of whom perform regular park and street dances which are observed by hundreds of casual onlookers during peak times ...
Jankovics Marcell (Born: October 21, 1941 in Budapest, Hungary)
Mészáros Márta (Born: September 19, 1931 in Budapest, Hungary)
Feminist thinker Marta Meszaros has had a diverse and interesting career in filmmaking yet remained resolute when it comes to her ideals. She was taken to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics when she was a child, where her father and mother both died under suspicious circumstances, leading young Marta to be taken in by her aunt back home in Budapest. She was later trained in filmmaking in Moscow before accepting a job at Newsreel Studios in Budapest. She then worked in Romania, directing short subject films at the Bucharest Documentary Studios. Returning to Budapest, Meszaros made dozens of documentary films, exploring various issues within politics, science, history and the arts. It was at the Mafilm Group 4 unit that she met filmmaker Miklos Jancso with whom she formed an important union. Still active today, Meszaros is one of Hungary's most influential fiction filmmakers of the last 50 years, having cultivated a direct, intimate style of shooting that feels close, confrontational and immediate. She's also an important figure in the development of sound and music in European cinema.
"The work of Hungarian filmmaker Márta Mészáros is intricately entwined with Europe’s socio-cultural history."
- Ela Bittencourt, 'The Films Of Márta Mészáros : Power, Feminism And Transindividuality'
"I went to film school in Moscow. I didn’t go to a Hungarian film school since this wasn’t easy for a woman. In fact, at that time, a woman had never been enrolled at a Hungarian film school to study directing. And this was a really big problem. But, you know, I’d lived in Russia before, and my knowledge of the Russian language was very good, so I decided to go to the Moscow film school [VGIK, the Russian State Institute of Cinematography]. At that time, it wasn’t easy because it was the ’50s. There weren’t many films being made — only ones about the wise and beautiful Stalin. But there were some very, very good professors at the Moscow film school — Dovzhenko, for example, taught there at that time, and Pyriev, Gerasimov, Kuleshov and many, many interesting men. But it was only a theoretical school. There wasn’t the money for doing any practical work. It was very good for understanding culture, literature, and for seeing films. But not for doing anything practical. This was the school’s biggest problem. The only thing they did occasionally was still photography. So after graduating and returning to Hungary, I decided first of all to make a documentary. This was around 1956 – the time of the revolution in Hungary. The political atmosphere was very interesting, with a huge opposition to Communism emerging and part of the Hungarian intelligentsia, writers and journalists, strongly in support of democracy. And I made a documentary about the poor lives of the people. The officials hated my film because it was about life under Communism, showing how it really was. But it was the truth — I captured the ordinary lives of these people and their problems. I did it many times. After 1956, you know, there was a deep depression, because Imre Nagy [the leader of Hungary during its brief liberal experiment] was killed and many people were killed during that time and the political atmosphere was terrible. I made my film Napló szerelmeimnek (Diary for My Loved Ones, 1987) about this period and many other directors have made films about this time. In general in Hungary, both the music and film traditions have been very strong. I don’t know why, I think it might be because of the language. The Hungarian language is very beautiful, but it is totally different from those of our neighbours. So we’ve always had very strong directors. Zoltán Fábri, István Szabó, they made some very interesting films. But really the man who showed us the new political way during the 1960s was [Miklós] Jancsó with Szegénylegények (Round-up, 1965). The film is about 1956. I mean, its story is a historical one but the ideas came from Jancsó and his thoughts on the political situation. It was a new style for communicating about Socialism, Communism, and dictatorship. And the film was accepted [by the censors]; many young people gathered around Jancsó and made some very interesting cinema."
- Marta Meszaros, Senses Of Cinema
'The Girl' (1968, Eltávozott nap - Marta Meszaros)
An abandoned girl with a factory job takes time out to search for her biological mother. Marta Meszaros' debut feature is a vivid and iconic character study that struck a chord with teenagers across Europe who were busy experiencing the peaks and troughs of musical youth.
'Veszíteni Tudni Kell' - Kati Kovács
'Binding Sentiments' (1969, Holdudvar - Marta Meszaros)
A domestic drama set within a small rural community that deals with questions of grief, abandonment and infidelity. 'Binding Sentiments' could be an exploration of female psychology.
"I think it's quite correct to say that in Hungary it is the director who is important, rather than the actors, though there have been exceptions and it has happened that I have had a film written especially for me. In general, however, it is the director's ideas that matter and I think this is perfectly all right. But it's not just in Hungary that this happens: this is how it works with every director who is good enough and who can work in the way he wants to work. This applies, of course, only to those who are truly creative people: in those cases, the actors have the chance to do really good work. Directors like Nikita Mikhalkov or Elem Klimov, for example, don't think in terms of actors they want to convey something and they use the actors to put this across but actors are still important to them and they make a very crucial impact in their work. But I find it inconceivable that an actor should even think of saying, "I want you to take a close-up of me now." That's not acting, it's just something self-serving. Of course, I've worked with weak and even bad directors, for this is my profession and it's how I earn my living; but on the rare occasions when I had the chance to work with a thoughtful intelligent person, someone who sees the world in a different, and even unusual, way, I've surrendered myself completely to someone of that kind. It's important in Hungary that all the good actors work in the theatre too, for I believe that a true actor can't exist without the theatre if you don't work in the theatre you simply limit yourself to being nothing more than a "star." Liv Ullmann and Glenda Jackson, for example, continue to work in the theatre, while Jean-Paul Belmondo, who I think was a really outstanding stage actor at the beginning of his career, has simply become submerged in the world of romantic heroes and gangsters. He may be better off financially doing this and he is a big star, but it's still very sad."
- Mari Torocsik, Kinoeye
Mari Törőcsik & Kati Kovács
'Don't Cry, Pretty Girls!' (1970, Szép leányok, ne sírjatok! - Marta Meszaros)
Progressive hippie musical about factory culture, the travelling life and squatter's rights. Features musical contributions from Illes, Kex, Metro, Syrius and Sarolta Zalatnay who was friends with Marta Meszaros' close associate Kati Kovacs.
'Oh, Ha Milliomos Lennék' - Sarolta Zalatnay
'The Heiresses' (1980, Örökség - Marta Meszaros)
An elegant period piece set in 1936, 'The Heiresses' is a complex morality play about dangerous alliances and European pre-war relations.
'Diary For My Children' (1984, Napló gyermekeimnek - Marta Meszaros) / 'Diary For My Lovers' (1987, Napló szerelmeimnek - Marta Meszaros) / 'Diary For My Father And Mother' (1990, Napló apámnak, anyámnak - Marta Meszaros)
An autobiographical trilogy. Marta Meszaros has also directed a prequel I've not seen, entitled 'Little Vilna : The Last Diary' (2000). I'd like to see it.
"Márta Mészáros recalls that when she turned up at a film studio in Hungary as a naïve teen and told a well-dressed employee she wanted to become a director, his response was blunt: “Girly, go home, because it’s not good to say stupid things like that.” Any woman who stated such an ambition was thought to be in the grip of hysteria, but she was undeterred. “It was 70 years ago, and here I am now.” The anecdote was recounted at April’s GoEast International Film Festival in Germany, which held a symposium on how female filmmakers from central and eastern Europe have been positioned – often against their wishes – in relation to feminism. It’s impossible to discuss this without considering Mészáros, who not only made the first Hungarian feature directed by a woman (1968’s The Girl), but continued to defy doubters and a climate of heavy censorship to become a defining voice of her nation’s cinema. GoEast screened a retrospective of her intimate, politically charged work, which moved on to Berlin’s Arsenal in May – an ideal opportunity to reflect on her trailblazing legacy. Mészáros was one of few female directors (Agnès Varda, Kira Muratova and Larisa Shepitko also come to mind) to reach prominence in ‘60s Europe. She is best known for her semi-autobiographical Diary trilogy, which drew on the traumatic upheavals she and her family underwent at the hands of Stalin’s regime. Born in Budapest, she spent her early childhood in Kyrgyzstan in the Soviet Union. After her sculptor father was arrested by the secret police (and, it was later revealed, executed) and her mother died, she was raised by a foster parent. Diary for My Children (1984) mirrors her own experience of returning to her homeland in search of roots and an existential compass with which to come to terms with a keen sense of injustice." - Carmen Gray, The Calvert Journal
Zsuzsa Czinkóczi & Jan Nowicki
Márta Mészáros, Jan Nowicki & Zsuzsa Czinkóczi
'Ha Én Rozsa Volnék' - Zsuzsa Koncz
'Aurora Borealis : Nordic Light' (2017, Aurora Borealis: Északi fény - Marta Meszaros)
A lawyer looks into her past but comes up against obstacles that have been set for her. 'Aurora Borealis : Nordic Light' uses a flashback structure to fill in some of the fractured narrative's blanks, digging deep inside a well of post-traumatic stress and elongated memory to create a mystery that's in strict keeping with Meszaros' life's work.
Huszárik Zoltán (Born: May 14, 1931 in Domony, Hungary - Died: October 15, 1981 (age 50) in Budapest, Hungary)
'Sinbad' (1971, Szindbád - Zoltan Huszarik)
A man reminisces over former lovers. The experimental mood-piece 'Sinbad' is one of just two feature films directed by visual artist Zoltan Huszarik who made a number of documentaries, including one on sculptor and part-time character actor Amerigo Tot. It's based upon the stories of Gyula Krudy.
Szomjas György (Born: November 26, 1940 in Budapest, Hungary)
Director Gyorgy Szomjas has come to be known as the godfather of the "goulash" Western, Hungary's contribution to a wave of revisionist westerns often termed "Red Westerns" (also known as Easterns, or "Osterns") that were produced behind the iron curtain in the 1960s and 1970s. Szomjas' acute vibrations and musical inclinations made him an ideal choice to forward this east-west progression and he built an important relationship with experimental composer Ferenc Sobo who'd scored (and acted in) Pal Zolnay's avant-garde travelogue 'Photography' (1973) and Gabor Body's Civil War drama 'American Torso' (1975) which was inspired by the writings of Ambrose Bierce; the latter film directly addresses historic members of the Hungarian Revolutionary Army - men like Charles Zagonyi - who served militarily during both the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 and the American Civil War of the 1860s.
Szomjas carries links to the Hungarian punk movement, and in particular, the Budapest underground highlighted in Lucile Chaufour's documentary 'East Punk Memories' (2012). His film 'Junk Movie' (1992) is a rude portrait of human depravity with exhibitionism, bosom jiggling and edible panties that's credited as being a major influence on Hungary's "bad taste" movement spearheaded by iconoclastic filmmaker Gyorgi Palfi.
'The Wind Blows Under Your Feet' (1976, Talpuk alatt fütyül a szél - Gyorgy Szomjas)
In the 19th century, a desperate stranger seeks revenge against those who betrayed him.
Enter Sandman : The Professor Of Organic Invention
The late 1970s saw a significant shift in Hungarian animation from the liquefication of a psychedelic chemistry set to the engineering of more organic, earthbound forms of surrealism. Istvan Orosz created 'Silence' (1977) and experimented with animation and live-action in 'Towards The Salt Cellar' (1978) and 'Private Nightmare' (1980). Zsolt Richly premiered his television series 'The Rabbit With Plaid' in 1977, which brought science into the home.
Surrealist and sand animator Ferenc Cako entered the world of professional filmmaking around this time. Perhaps his most famous work is a sand piece set to music by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi. He's worked across the arts, inside the technology sector and science has been integral to his creative process. Through his work he's paid tribute to scientific pioneers including archaeologist Zsofia Torma and nuclear chemist Elizabeth Rona.
"Ferenc Cako is a Hungarian artist who displays the complexities of human emotions through his work. His main aim is to bring to light, the demons and repressed feelings that reside inside all of us. He showcases the depths of the mind through his work. Although he is a sand animator, he focuses on spreading his message through the finished artwork rather than the process of sand animation."
- Morina Singh, The Yellow Sparrow
Mákosrétes - Illés
Cakó Ferenc (Born: November 18, 1950 in Budapest, Hungary)
A concert pianist becomes obsessed with a jaded singer who's involved with a malevolent caretaker. 'Eskimo Woman Feels Cold' is an epic crime musical featuring members of the musical outfit Trabant, including Mihaly Vig who would later compose many musical scores for filmmaker Bela Tarr. The cast includes musician Laszlo Foldes and Agnes Kamondy who'd tie herself into working almost exclusively with Tarr as her career progressed.
Marietta Mehes had already appeared in a pair of experimental shorts directed by Janos Xantus, 'Diorissimo' (1980) and 'Noi Kezekben' (1981), when he cast her in 'Eskimo Woman Feels Cold' to play a character who may be partially inspired by her own image on Budapest's underground music scene. In 1986, Mehes moved to New York, USA where an underground arts scene was similarly flourishing.
'Eskimo Woman Feels Cold' was voted Hungary's greatest film in a recent poll of rock musicians.
"I adore the Hungarian language, I adore Hungarian poems, I am more than happy that this is my native language. I really like writing in Hungarian and I’m influenced by Pilinszky. I think my lines tend to get kitschy at times, and sometimes they actually are. But I like kitsch and there are things and feelings that I don’t even try to convene in a non-kitschy way, simply because I can’t. I’ll leave it to someone who can, who cares. There are so many topics that deserve a Hungarian text, or we just simply write them in Hungarian. Be it two-line-long texts from our cell phones, lined up next to each other. Or a sudden strike of a cycle of poems in our minds during a bus ride. The shaggy words start to flow, at least that happens to me a lot, especially during travelling, showering or sitting on the toilet. But Gallusz is totally different. According to him, he writes really slowly but when he finishes something, that is always complete and cool. But he just does this thing with his cell phone. And speaking of the English texts, there is this general thing that we usually say – because this is how it is – there are things that simply sound better in English. In Hungarian, we rather write poems, while Bob Dylan gets a Nobel, you know, for his English lyrics instead."
- Zita Csordas, Beehype
"More than thirty years ago now, Béla Tarr organized a film club and a video workshop at the Kassák Community Center, in Budapest. There, he surrounded himself with young people who were interested in film. At that time, Béla was a very young, but already successful director. Thanks to him, we were able to watch the classics of film history, and also some masterpieces that had never had an official release in Hungarian film theaters. We were a small group of passionate cinephiles and, besides watching movies, we had the opportunity to use a portable videocamera [hordozható videó rekorder], which was very rare in Hungary in the early ’80s. The members of the group (about fifteen people in total) could use this machine in order to make their own films. This is how the workshop worked: during a general assembly, anyone who felt like it could pitch his or her personal film project, and then there was a vote to decide who was going to get the camera and start shooting. After the shooting, the group discussed the material. My friend Zoltán Gazsi was an active participant in Béla’s workshop. With that videocamera he used to record the concerts of many Hungarian alternative rock bands, including my own band, Balaton. I also played in another band, Trabant. Back then, Trabant did not play live concerts: we spread our music on home-made samizdat tapes. One day Béla listened to one of our tapes, and he liked one of our songs so much that he asked Zoltán to contact me. Béla welcomed me in his apartment, together with his wife, Ágnes Hranitzky. I remember that a bottle of champagne was on their table. I had met Béla at the film club many times before and we had already been introduced, but that was the day when we really got acquainted. Béla and Ágnes told me that they were preparing a new film - 'Almanac of Fall' - and they asked me if I would compose the music for it. I daringly accepted, and I have been writing music for all their films ever since."
- Mihaly Vig, 'Artists In Conversation'
"I liked Kispál és a Borz, and we still listen to them sometimes, we don’t need to deny that. But what truly grew on me is Csókolom and mostly Zsuzsi Ujj, whose lyrics can still make me cry. Besides that, there’s Marietta Méhes, and the whole underground of the ’80s, which was linked to us at beginning, by the way. But we also really like The Cure, their atmosphere, their influence can be heard in our latest songs."
- Zita Csordas
'Adagio for Violin & Piano' - Zoltán Kodály
Enyedi Ildikó (Born: November 15, 1955 in Budapest, Hungary)
'My 20th Century' (1989, Az én XX. századom - Ildiko Enyedi)
Separated twins undertake separate journeys at the dawn of a technological revolution.
"Hungarian film-maker Ildikó Enyedi won the Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival last year with On Body and Soul, and now UK audiences get the chance to see her debut feature, which was an award-winner at Cannes 30 years ago. 'My 20th Century' is a jeu d’ésprit, a whimsical erotic fantasia of central Europe, a millennial meditation on modernity, all in black-and-white and infused with the spirit of early cinema, with distinct touches of Buster Keaton and a playful attitude to sex, comparable to Milan Kundera. Polish actor Dorota Segda plays two twins, Dora and Lili, who suffered grinding poverty as little girls and sold matches in the streets. Then they were stolen by two sinister top-hatted gentlemen, separated, and after childhoods of abuse that we can only guess at, are reunited by fate in the year 1900. Dora is now what is quaintly called an adventuress, scamming besotted rich men out of their money, which we see her attempting as a passenger on the Orient Express. Lili is a passionate idealist, feminist and anarchist who is preparing to assassinate a politician in Budapest."
- Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“My 20th Century, photographed by Tibor Máthé, must be one of the most handsome black-and-white films since Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2. It is also enormously good humored.”
- Vincent Canby, The New York Times
"I, in fact, chose film quite late. It was after I'd made my first feature film, 'My Twentieth Century'. I was very much resistant to choose anything as a profession. I worked on the borders of culture and mainstream filmmaking because it's very expensive, and so it was somehow no-go territory. But I enjoyed the complexity of the work on my first feature film so deeply that I just chose film."
- Ildiko Enyedi, Pop Matters
'8 Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs' - Béla Bartók