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38TH Hungarian film week - The long commute

Budapest is a big city and on my current visit I was forced to find lodging quite far from the center. As a consequence of the long commute in and out of town I had to pass up many of the competition and other films scheduled, but still managed to meet many interesting people in the evening social gatherings at the Millenaris complex which has now become the nerve center of the annual film gathering. Below some comments on the "selling points" of a number of films I would like to have seen but wasn't able to get around to.

First off two new films by two of the leading lights of the younger generation of film directors. Benedek Fliegelauf stirred up quite a sensation two years ago with his hallucinatory drug film "Dealer" and has now followed up his earlier success up with an even more experimental, totally non-narrative abstract film, "The Milky Way". The film was shot by hot young cameraman, Gergő Pohornok, and has been described with words like "cosmic" and "psychedelic".
"Off Hollywood", an intriguing title for a Hungarian film, is the followup second feature to "White Palms", the highly successful semi-documentary gymnastics drama by Sabolcs Hajdu, which traveled around the world and picked up numerous awards along the way last year.
"Bahrtalo" (Good Luck), a wild and wooly Gypsy road movie is getting lots of good word of mouth and, for the fact alone that much of the dialogues is in Romany and that films about Tzigane minorities always arouse curiosity, should be of some interest elsewhere.
"No Mercy" (Nincs Kegyelem) is a film about a Gypsy handyman wrongly accused of a murder and put on trial. Since the director is veteran ace cameraman Elemer Ragály (born 1939) and the cast includes such accomplished veteran actors as Eperjes Karóly and Kati Lázár, this looks like one to catch up with. Also interesting for the phenomenon of highly experienced cameramen turning director after a lengthy lensing career, another case in point being Lajos Koltai, the long term DOP for Istvan Szabo, who has now directed two features of his own ("Fateless" and "Evening" with an all-star English speaking cast).
"Mario, the Magician", (no connection to the Thomas Mann story, "Mario and the Magician") is the tale of an Italian businessman who comes to a small town in Hungary just after the fall of Communism in 1989, and sets the heart of a young local gal on fire. Of special interest here is the fact that the Italian businessman is played by former Italian action movie star Franco Nero! The director of this original scenario is veteran Tamás Almási (born 1948) whose feature film career goes back to a 1976 debut called "How long does a tree live?" Not having had the opportunity of actually seeing any of the above films I am, alas, not in a position to offer any realistic assessment of their potential audience prospects outside of Hungary - but we can guess, can't we ...

by Alex Deleon, Budapest, February 4, 2008

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