Tarr returns after a long absence. Unfortunately, it's not up to par. Well, I should say, I have much of the same problem with this film that I do with all of Tarr's films. I'm certainly not his biggest fan anyway. I love his aesthetic, and would definitely call him a genius just for his visual prowess. It's so extremely original. And he's so good at setting mood, although I should say that the mood of all of his films, at least his later, more well known films, is pretty close to the same. Dark, cold, lonely, the drudgery of life, etc. But as soon as the characters start to speak, I stop paying attention. I find most of the actual words of Tarr's films uninteresting, and, when the characters are talking, I start to realize that I don't find these people that interesting. They may look interesting, as Tarr captures their essence in severe close-ups, but they never say anything interesting. The Man of London unwisely adds plot to the mix. Tarr's earlier films have a wonderful meandering quality, where it feels like he's just capturing people going about their lives. That is true here to an extent, but this one has a pretty clear plot structure, and one that's been told often before: a man finds a pile of money that belongs to crooks, and he pays for it. It's not plot driven by any means, but that skeletal plot is followed, and it makes the film less interesting than Tarr's other films. Also, Tilda Swinton shows up as the protagonist's wife in what amounts to a cameo (she has about five minutes of screen time in this 2 hour and 12 minute film),and it's pretty distracting. There's a cute little nod to Satantango at one point, where people in a bar dance like they did in that behemoth. Also, the little girl with the cat from Satantango shows up as the protagonist's daughter. It's weird, because she looks exactly the same, except she's a woman now. A very, very creepy woman. Who probably still kills cats when nobody's looking.
The Man from London
Action / Crime / Drama / Mystery
The Man from London
Action / Crime / Drama / Mystery
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One night Maloin, a switchman at a seaside railway station situated by a ferry harbor, witnesses a terrible event. He is just watching the arrival of the last ferry at night from his control room on top of a high iron traverse from where he can see the whole bay. Suddenly he notices that the first of the disembarking passengers, a tall thin figure (a certain Brown as it will turn out later) leaves the harbor, but not on the usual route: after getting through customs, he goes around the dock and then withdraws into a dark corner, waiting. Opposite him, in front of the ship, another man soon appears and throws a suitcase towards the man on the shore. He goes and picks it up, then waits in an dark corner for the other man to join him. When he arrives, however, they begin to quarrel and finally, in the course of the vehement fight, due to a hit that turns out to be fatal, the shorter one falls in the water and sinks, clutching the suitcase in his hand. Maloin is watching the scene, astonished. In a state of fear and shock, he opens the door of his control room, but the sharp and loud creaking sound disturbs and frightens away the murderer. Brown is forced to flee before being able to fish out the suitcase from the water. After the murderer disappears down one of the streets behind the harbor, Maloin cautiously climbs down from his cabin to the shore. When he realizes that there is nothing he can do for the victim, he dredges up the suitcase. He takes it up to his control room and opens it: it is packed with money. He is dazzled. He does not go either to call the police or fetch the murderer; he just stares at the pile of money. He simply cannot believe his eyes. Then, after meticulously drying and counting the banknotes, he hides the suitcase in his closet and locks it. At dawn, when his colleague arrives, he acts as if nothing had happened. He returns home on his usual route. Nevertheless, this path is not the same anymore;
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Slightly disappointing effort from Bela Tarr
My first Tarr experience
Admittedly it is daunting to start watching my very first Béla Tarr's works (with his wife and longtime editor Ágnes Hranitzky credited as the co-director),who has already retreated to a permanent retirement in filmmaking after THE TURIN HORSE (2011),as his oeuvre is mostly notorious for stirring audience's usual viewing habits with long takes exceedingly overstay their length of tolerance, a mixed anticipation and perturbation has overtaken me when I selected his lesser praised 2007 feature as the very first introduction piece, rarely I was in such a state before even embarking on the ritual of watching a film.
I would be dishonest if I say that the opening 13-minutes long take doesn't put me into a split second of slumber severe times, but how can anyone not to be flabbergasted by its solemn chiaroscuro grandeur, rigorously composed to illustrate a key event without spoon- feeding what is happening to audience, it is a paradigm-shifting innovation deserves admiration and endorsement, and more impressive in Tarr's long takes are not counter- narrative, in fact, he meticulously orchestrates the narrative within the long-takes, invites audience to be fully aware of our own self-consciousness towards the happenings on the screen during the overlong shots, particularly when framing at the back of characters' heads or the ones linger on characters' facial expressions as if they are tableaux vivants after the dramatic occurrences.
Once I passed the early stage of maladjustment, the film tends to be rather galvanising (an accomplishment should also be ascribed to composer Mihály Vig's resounding score with accordion or pipe organ),adapted from Belgian writer Georges Simenon's 1934 French novel 1934 L'HOMME DE LONDRES, Tarr transmutes the thrilling plot to an existential quest of our protagonist Maloin (Krobot),who has incidentally discovered a windfall after witnessing a murder during his night shift as a switchman in a French-speaking port town where a harbour and the wagon station are conveniently located with each other. The subsequent storyline involves the investigation of a senior detective Thompson (Lénárt) from London and domestic wrangles with his overwrought wife Camélia (Swinton) when he splurges their money wantonly, plus the British murderer Brown (Derzsi) is very eager to get the money back.
Tarr avoids any choppy development devices to pander for audience's attention span, he cooks up an equivocal scenario in the end, we never know the critical event happened inside the hut (Brown's hideout) as Tarr's camera fixates itself firmly outside the hut with its door closed, and regarding to Maloin's following behaviour, after knowing his character for almost 2-hours, each of us can give various motivations contingent on our viewings of the incident Tarr ingeniously chooses not to show us.
The film is infamous also for the suicide of its producer Humbert Balson in 2005, just before the shooting due to the apparent financial burdens of Tarr's hefty Corsican setting, so the reality check is even grimmer than the formidable fiction. What can I say? My gut feeling tells me I'm officially on board with Tarr's filmic methodology and all the trappings, his sui generis aesthetic language soundingly enshrines his filmography into the lofty tier of contemporary auteurism and maybe one day he will curtain his retirement and surprise us if inspiration strikes!
The Slowest Film in History
This film has many extraordinarily interesting qualities, but they are all ruined by the apparent vanity of the director, who appears to be a kind of inverted snob (I watched the interview of him on the DVD). The first shot of the film lasts about five minutes, maybe more, and is interminably boring, moving at slower than a snail's pace. But the director, a Hungarian named Bela Tarr, is determined that we must watch it, perhaps on the theory that anyone lacking the patience to do so is one of the unworthy ones, and does not deserve to see the rest of what he considers his masterpiece. The film defies all normal expectations of a viewing public and does not appear to be made for audiences at all, but rather an example of the director making something to please himself and his two or three best friends. The film is in black and white, and the cinematography is spectacularly good. Tarr gives the impression that he wishes to evoke the same moods as the famous night photos of Paris by Brassai. The film is based upon a novel by Georges Simenon, and the dialogue is in a mixture of French and English, with no Hungarian spoken, as all the Hungarian actors are dubbed in either French or English. It is supposedly set in a French port which has a ferry whose passengers disembark onto a waiting train. We often see them doing this at night, heads bowed, like passengers entering the Afterlife, carrying small valises to last them for Eternity. The film is based so entirely upon images that, if not for its sluggishness, it would qualify as Imagiste in the tradition of Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle ('H.D.'). In his interview, the Director says it is not necessary to hear the dialogue or read the subtitles, as the images speak for themselves. Tarr appears to be inspired by the films of Carl Dreyer, and wishes to sear our sight with ravaged faces, upon which the camera lingers for whole minutes, in the hope that souls will emerge from the eyes and the skin, with the characters' inner depths spilling out like guts on the battlefield. Long, sombre shots where nothing happens are suddenly interspersed with explosions of intense and violent human emotions. Characters who had seemed dead have their electricity turned on and suddenly start shouting and gesticulating. In this melée the chamaeleon-like Tilda Swinton (who is always likely to turn up in the most bizarre settings, and the stranger it is, the more certain we can be that she will be there) has a cameo part, which may have required one or two days's shooting time (or should I say weeks, at Tarr's pace?) Once again, she startles us with her brilliance. Making good use of her fluent French, she plays a desperate, shrieking, terrified harridan of a wife to a man who never speaks and has no money, played by a taciturn Miroslav Krobot, with knitted brow and lips stuck together with glue. The weird music by Mihaly Vig is hauntingly effective, drawing upon its sheer monotony to create a captivating and eerie atmosphere which matches the film to perfection. A girl named Erika Bok plays the daughter of Swinton and Krobot, and is utterly fascinating in her slack-jawed ugliness and simulated stupidity, so that one cannot take one's eyes off her. All of the characters are like figures from a dream, none seems real. Surely these are the people who come to haunt one at night when one has had too much fois gras and sauterne. Can people like Tilda Swinton even exist? I have in other reviews pointed out that she is an extraterrestrial at least, if not someone from another dimension. As for Erika Bok, she cannot possibly exist, she has to be invented. The ultra-weird Istvan Lenart, speaking with the dubbed voice of Edward Fox sounding like a séance-voice of a disembodied spirit reciting the Creed at a black mass, or a corpse enunciating its views from its crypt, outdoes even Swinton in non-human appearance, in the competition to appear unreal and trans-human. He has more folds and wrinkles to his face than a rhinoceros, and has the eyes of a dead man who has lain in his grave for at least twenty years without rotting down properly. This film is like a film full of nocturnal zombies, but the film itself is also like a zombie, since it is clearly just as asleep as a ward full of sedated patients in a lunatic asylum, who have all just had electric shock treatment and forgotten who they are before passing out of consciousness. If Tarr were not so vain, and had been willing to make this film watchable, it could have been an astounding classic. But he is even more irritating than the French director Jacques Rivette, whose 'La Belle Noiseuse' (1991) I had previously believed to be the Number One Most Boring and Interminable Film of All Time. Why does Tarr want to bore us to death and drive us away? Because he is 'above' such things as audiences and viewers? If so, we are so far beneath him that we truly do not deserve him. He should be making films for jungle sloths. What a terrible waste, that a man with such talent should be so perverse in refusing to make 'compromises' that he forgets that films are meant to be seen by people, and not to be kept at home in a locked drawer. 'Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!'