Tuesday, December 2, 2014

19th IFFK - Jancso Retrospective

"Miklós Jancsó was a film director whose arabesque shots ravished the eye and captured the cold chess game of Hungary’s past .Miklós Jancsó was the most distinctive Hungarian film-maker of his generation, with an instantly identifiable visual style that won him wide international recognition in the Sixties and Seventies. Jancsó (pronounced “Yancho”) specialised in historical subjects, ranging from the Kossuth rebellion of 1848 to the communists’ rise to power in Hungary a century later. For Italian television, he ventured into aspects of ancient Roman history, though these projects were less successful. His fame rested less on the content of his films than on their idiosyncratic treatment. He spun variations on a small number of recurring themes and images: horses snorting and galloping on the great Hungarian plain (the puszta); soldiers marching in formation; naked women dancing with scarlet ribbons; horsemen cracking whips; burning hay ricks. He filmed these scenes with a constantly prowling camera, the characters weaving in and out of the frame while the camera itself performed intricate arabesques. He pushed the long take to its limits, as Hitchcock had done in Rope and the Greek director Theo Angelopoulos, imitating, would do later. One Jancsó film consisted of only 12 shots, changes of angle and perspective being achieved through the moving camera. This technique required extensive rehearsals with cameraman and actors, though the players were spared the need to be word perfect — during the shot, they mouthed the lines, which were dubbed in later. He died at the age of  92"

“ One of the masters of widescreen composition and elaborately choreographed long-take sequence shots, Miklos Jancso has been described as the most important Hungarian director of all” (Mira and A. J. Liehm) and the key Hungarian filmmaker of the sound era (Jonathan Rosenbaum). His fervid, transfixing, highly stylized and intensely formalist films are noted for their balletic, brutal study of repression, rebellion and revolution. Hungarian film-maker Miklos Jancso, who graduated in law and took courses in art history and ethnography, also served the Second World War and was for a brief period of time, a prisoner of war. After the war, Jancso enrolled in the Academy of Theatre and Film Arts in Budapest. He received his Diploma in Film Directing in 1950. Jancso’s debut feature, The Bells Have Gone to Rome was released after the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising which left hundreds of Hungarians dead or imprisoned and thousands refugees. Right from this first film, Jancso expressed his interest in war as a platform for working out his ideas. In My Way Home, a Hungarian youth is arrested, interned, released, arrested again, and sent to tend a herd of cows together with a young Russian soldier – the two transcend barriers of language as well as nationality to become close friends.
Jancso’s cinema does not conform to narrative or psychological conventions, but opens other areas that are usually found in the screen musical. His films are elaborate ballets, exploring anonymity, power, humiliation and the senselessness of war often by using the Russians themselves as his subjects as in the Red and the White. Tyranny is everywhere, and men and women survive in groups, often singing and dancing. Sometimes the groups split up and realign, moving in different directions, while the camera weaved in and out unobtrusively, tracking the characters.
Jancso, who’s Red Psalm was awarded at Cannes, was also honoured with a special prize for his lifetime work at the same festival. Brave, committed, transporting, infuriating, harrowing and latterly hilarious, Jancso’s work remains a true gift to cinema.
The Round-Up
Hungary / B&W / 90 min / 1966
Direction:Miklos Jancso

Miklos Jancso creates a sublime, provocative, and haunting examination of moral bankruptcy and human cruelty in The Round-up. Following the quelling of Lajos Kossuth's1848 revolution against Habsburg rule in Hungary, prison camps were set up for people suspected of being Kossuth's supporters. Around 20 years later, some members of highwayman Sandor Rozsa's guerrilla band, believed to be some of Kossuth's last supporters, are known to be interned among the prisoners in a camp and the means at identification were mental and physical torture and trickery. When one of the guerrillas, Janos Gajdar, is identified as a murderer by an old woman, he attempts to bargain for his life by acting as an informant and in the process, initiates a cycle of betrayal, violence, and deceit. Through languid and sweeping pans, minimal composition, and oppressive environment that reflect the emotional vacuity, hopelessness and isolation of the detained prisoners, The Round-up presents an understated, yet harrowing portrait of spiritual desolation, betrayal and existential limbo.
Electra, My Love
Hungary / Colour / 70 min / 1974
Direction:Miklos Jancso

Electra has vowed revenge for the murder of her father. She waits for the return of her brother, who will exact justice.
 Red Psalm/Még kér a nép
Hungary / Colour / 87 min / 1972
Direction:Miklos Jancso

Direction Miklos Jancso recounts quite poetically the story of a peasant uprising on an estate in Hungary in the 1890s. It examines the nature of revolt, and the issues of morality and violence.Staging maypole dances, folk chants, and other mass rites instead of tending to fields of grain, the strikers' processional ceremonies are tracked by Jancso in less than 30 elegantly orchestrated shots and tensely observed by bailiffs, clergy, and eventually government troops.
Silence and Cry/Csend és kiáltás
Hungary/ B & W / 73 min / 1968
Direction:Miklos Jancso

Silence and Cry is set after the fall of the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919. A young Red soldier, fleeing the anti-Communist manhunt, takes refuge at the isolated farm of a peasant family. His reluctant hosts are already under police scrutiny for being political suspects. The local White commander is aware of the soldier’s presence but, for personal reasons, keeps it a secret. The soldier discovers that the farmer is being poisoned, slowly, by his wife and her sister. As a personal war is waging within his own consciousness over morality and self-preservation, Istvan must decide whether to remain silent about the women's devious secret and preserve his own life, or to report their heinous crime to the Royal Gendarme, which would also mean certain death for him.

The Confrontation / Fényes szelek

Hungary / Colour/ 80 min / 1969
Direction:Miklos Jancso
This is Jancso’s first film in colour—muted, dusky colour punctuated by the vivid red of a boy’s shirt and of a streaming banner, with its suggestion of Hungarian bloodshed. It tells the story of protest and rebellion in 1947 Hungary where the Communist Party had taken power

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