Tag Archives: Hungarian film

never maybe



I saw Citizen Kane so long ago it was as if I was seeing it for the first time again. It is a really wonderful film.  It has an irrepressibly youthful quality that I found ever so slightly discordant with the content, but charming none the less. And yet, I wondered how different the film would have been had Welles been older when he made it.

There were certain scenes that reminded me of one of my favorite directors – Bélla Tarr. Towards the beginning of Kane, there was a shot outside the nightclub where Susie sings, in Tarr’s film Damnation, there is a similar scene except Tarr holds the shot (as is typical of his work) for minutes on end, the rainless warm interior beckons, while the relentless soaking and futility of a nightclub as a destination for a heartbroken individual, weighs ever more heavily. Tarr shoots in black and white with a subtle yet portentous hand.

In Citizen Kane it is also a rainy night, but it reads as purely aesthetic and atmospheric- which Welles excelled in- his smoky rooms and hazy atmospheres are stylistically sublime. Never the less, I point out the comparison and difference to suggest that, while Welles had all the artistry- he understood the style, which is copied in many films to this day, including Tarr’s, but there is a missed layer of substance. He doesn’t quite reach the depths that are there to be reached.  Tarr’s films go to the extreme, exploring emotions at their deepest levels. Tarr will penetrate your soul.

Of course, to make Citizen Kane certainly took a nerve that perhaps only the slightly tarnished youth possess, but how much more moving it might have been if Welles himself had already felt the despair of time.

Still, scene for scene this is an incredible film. The architecture of each shot, the depth and overlays, the attention to tone, perspective and content are extraordinary. There are so many awe inspiring scenes it is hard to pick one as an example, but, to point to a couple: the scene towards the end when Kane and Susie are “camping” with the band playing “It can’t be love” in the background was beautiful; the scene in the beginning with the father and mother signing him away, and he seen through the window- oblivious…it’s wonderful- but then Welles adds to that by turning our perception of the mother on a dime with the line, “ That’s why he’s going to be brought up where you can’t get at him.” That was devastating. The mother’s hardness, her inhumane chill merely a protective device that, for all her trouble,  smashed her son’s heart anyway.

In the end, Welles’ portrayal of Kane, even with all the cheeky hints and clues dropped in to agitate William Randolph Hearst, was fundamentally a sympathetic portrayal. “Rosebud” was Kane’s very soul that was sold away from him in his youth- no amount of money could every buy it back for him.

Are we capable of fixing ourselves? Maybe, but the cure won’t be found in money or power, that is something Welles, even at his tender age, understood.

Here is the bar scene from Damnation, she doesn’t even start singing until about minute three, but damn it! it’s worth the wait. Best lounge song ever.

Trouble Loves Me

“Isn’t it broken dreams that bend our knees, that make us numb?”  – Sátántangó

The other day someone said to me, “Jessica, what you are trying to do, you can not do.” Well, I thought, that describes my life with frightening clarity.

Let’s Dance…

With that thought in my head, nothing better to do than watch the film, Satantango that I had requested from the library after a fruitless search in their system for a copy of the book.
Belá Tarr adapted the novel by László Krasznahorkai into a seven hour film. I can give Belá seven hours: why not? otherwise it’s just me, Morrissey, and a glass of wine.

“My heart, he thought again and again.” 

All is in the gloaming, half light and rain, in this incredible, meditative film. Maybe someday I’ll figure out what it all means. Tarr uses length to do the same thing that Mark Rothko did with the scale of his paintings: it’s the complete absorption into the artist’s feeling and vision.

The sins we commit against ourselves is the protracted theme stretching across the hours where nothing much happens, because as Tarr says, “nothing really happens as we flee from one condition to the other….all that remains is time.”

“There’s a huge difference between plodding and plodding.”

It’s Csak a gond, a munka (just trouble and work). It seems that way to me too. And all we really want to know is why?

“Regard me as a sad researcher who investigates why everything is as terrible as it is.”

It all makes a circle coming back on itself. Our inertia, and inability to seize…joy, have faith in life, each other and ourselves. I don’t know. I haven’t got it worked out. Perhaps I just feel defeated.


The Catskills (2011)

“Wine will make a wise man fall to singing”  Homer, The Odyssey

Well, that settles the debate.

I have multiple playlists on you tube. One of which I have titled Music To Think By. I mostly listen to it while doing my homework. My problem is that I cannot stop myself from singing, wine or no, which makes it hard to focus – not the wine, the singing. My Music To Think By is mostly lyric-less or at least not in English. But even this I have to be careful with as I will tend to sing along phonetically. Szamár*

I am presently enjoying; Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, the deaf percussionist Eveline Glennie (I first heard of her on a Ted Talk’s lecture called How To Listen), I love Mihály Vig (composer of all the soundtracks of Béla Tarr’s films), and have recently added Fotosputnik’s Sterominds and White Mountain Tunnel Romp from a recommendation by another great blog Anobium. The pianist Gonzales works well for long equations and deep philosophical thinking as well. For my personal favorite: classical guitar, Milos Karadaglic is very fine. Occasionally, while listening to music, the urge to weep overtakes me, but I have thrown in a little Anouk and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s Mustt Mustt to help keep my heart from sliding over the falls into an abyss.

I am, as always, open to suggestions…

*That’s Hungarian for “silly”or “fool” which I now know from listen to Kész az egész , one of the best lounge songs ever sung on film (Damnation). I will probably have to remove it from my playlist as I…well – sing along. I may not know what she is saying, but – I’ve been there.