Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

The opening scene of On Body and Soul – winner of the Golden Bear at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival, and the tenth Hungarian film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film – is so unbelievably damn good that it makes one want to root for the whole movie […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/10 & 10/12 & 10/16World premiere: 3 May, 2014, Jeonju International Film Festival I am totally unfamiliar with director Pálfi György’s notorious/beloved 2006 Taxidermia except by the outlines of its reputation, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of the common thread I’ve seen in the reviews I’ve peaked at, that his […]

Tarr Béla’s penultimate film (barring an un-retirement), 2007’s The Man from London, is among those movies for which more time is needed: at this writing, nearly seven full years have passed since it prickly, divisive premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival, but that event still hovers over the movie, working in tandem with some […]

Funny to say about a movie whose immensely cryptic plot can best be summed up as “humanity dances on the brink of cosmic destruction and lashes out violently in desperation”, whose characters are almost all nameless townsfolk except for the protagonist who becomes more unknowable the longer we spend time with him, and whose average […]

At heart, Tarr Béla’s curious little noodle of a movie from 1995, the 35-minute Journey on the Plain, is an exercise, not quite avant-garde enough to be a genuine experimental film but totally lacking in narrative or insisted-upon theme. And in this respect, it’s the only such film in the director’s career, for no matter […]

Just the name can send a shiver down the spine of the ill-prepared cinephile. Sátántangó. For Tarr Béla’s 7+ hour signature work is one of the endurance tests to tend all endurance tests in the art form of film. It is not the longest movie; even without leaving the realm of (relatively) conventional narrative cinema, […]

Noted Hungarian miserabilist Tarr Béla. A movie titled Damnation. What do you need, a road map? And I would love very much to tell you that you’d be wrong to expect this film to be a punishing, cruel-minded exploration of a world-as-literal-Hell mise en scène, but then I’d be lying. This is every inch the […]

It’s funny – not like, “oh my God, I can’t stop laughing” funny, but little about European art cinema is – it’s funny, I say again, that the first Tarr Béla film that made me bolt upright and think, “YES, THAT’S IT. That is the Tarr I’ve been waiting for” would also be the one […]

It was with his 1982 television adaptation of Macbeth that Tarr Béla suddenly and without warning turned into Tarr Béla. No learning curve, no gradual shift – all at once, the social realism that had marked his early features simply wasn’t there, replaced with “fuck you, that’s why” approach to formalist storytelling that turns his […]

With 1982’s The Prefab People, the third film in what we might profitably think of as Tarr Béla’s “Social Realism Trilogy”, we finally reach the defining point where social realism seems to have begun loosing its appeal for the young director, who began with this film to explore the styles and very characteristic rhythms that […]

Looking back from 2014, Tarr Béla’s second feature, The Outsider, is a staggering break from the filmmaker’s normal way of doing things. That’s not fair at all to the movie and moviemaker who, in 1981, had no idea that he’d one day become Europe’s crown prince of long takes, slow plots, and stasis, but it’s […]

The first project completed by director Tarr Béla, and the second released, the 1977/’79 film Family Nest is a great deal more conventional than the student short Hotel Magnezit, though mostly for that reason, it’s also a great deal more successful and satisfying. Opening with a title card ironically claiming that this isn’t a true […]