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Miklós Jancsó: a cinema legend
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Miklós Jancsó: a cinema legend

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jancso_miklos_2010Viareggio EuropaCinema Award of the President of the Culture of the Tuscan Region to Miklós Jancsó

"And he became legend - not just for titles like" The desperate of Sandor "or" Armed horsemen”, and his famous long shot sequence, Jancsó however, far from being universally recognized as one of the most fruitful European authors, he's active over decades of insatiable exploration, and of all the issues raised in the twentieth century, he involves not only a movie, but all the arts"
(in "Miklós Jancsó" by Giacomo Gambetti - Marsilio ed. 2008).

For these reasons Viareggio EuropaCinema Festival felt compelled to dedicate a tribute to this author, almost ninety years old and still very active in making films, television and theater.

In the '60s and '70s Jancsó was praised, particularly in France, one of the most important authors of the world cinema scene, primarily because of his original and innovative linguistic research and he should be considered, without doubt, the most important Hungarian film director of all the twentieth century.
Viareggio EuropaCinema Festival, with this indispensable tribute, takes this opportunity to show some of Jancsó masterpieces, from "The desperate of Sandor" to "Red Psalm", from "Electra, My Love" to "Agnus dei" and "My way ".
By partnering with the Cineclub Ezechiele and the Lucca Film Festival, these works are also proposed in the city of Lucca (Viareggio will host "Red Psalm" and "Desperates of Sandor”) in an ideal continuation of Viareggio EuropaCinema 2010‘ Festival.

The Tyrant technique. Miklós Jancsó’s Cinema.
Miklós Jancsó, in other words: long-shot. His name has become the synonymous with an unique cinematographic style.

Why the long-shot choice? Jancsó radically refuses the authoritarian idea of cinema and the profession of directing a movie. Firstly, because the main issue represented in all his works is the power. Secondly ( only from a chronological point of view ), because Jancsó’s refusal of such an authoritarian idea of making cinema comes from his personal experiences of oppression.

It has to be reminded that Jancsó was born in 1921, namely a couple years before the fall of the Republic of Councils –tending toward Socialism- and the fascist admiral Miklós Horthy’s tyrant dictatorship, which would have lasted until the end of the Second World War.

However, even during post-war period there was not fully freedom.
From 1948 to 1956 there is a political repressive turning caused by the Hungarian establishment with a Stalinist background.
Jancsó himself, while still very young, took part in this political involution which he considered rightful. Post-Stalin crises, between 1956-1958, was very hard and it represents a break which will influence Jancsó’s personality and beliefs.
From this very moment on, the deep-routed repugnance and of power oppression –even if characterized by socialist traits- can be considered as the main characteristic of Jancsò’s declarations and works.
From this point Jancsó treats any power and any repressive society in an antiauthoritarian and critic way, which recurs in every of his works.

He chooses the long-shot as linguistic form which respects the audience free choice within the movie; it respects the complexity and the ambiguity of what objectively exists and the reality; it respects the cinema epiphany, in the exact moment of its creation and in its existence in front of the camera lens.

Actually, in Jancsó’s frame gauge there are a multiplicity of visional levels in which the spectator’s eye can choose and decide which element of the frame he/she thinks to be important. In his frames –which sometimes are endless- there are several characters who constantly are in motion. This enduring motion follows the camera, which can be in syntony or in opposition comparing to the first. The distance of each character from the camera always changes so that the attribution of significant functions to them is impossible. The process of identification made by the spectator is frustrated over and over. The absence of characters’ psychological and biographical insights, the essential storyline almost reaching the unintelligibility, the denial of music as an emotional supplement to the frame contribute as well.

However, the frame gauge technique is not Jancsó’s sole linguistic prerogative, of course. Suffice it to think – apart from Orson Welles- about Alfred Hitchcock, Eunuci, Renoir, Dreyer, Bergman and many other directors of the Japanese cinema; then later Godard, Andy Warhol and Theodòros Anghelopulos.

The necessity of choosing a point of view for the long-shot prevents the audience to abandon himself to the oniric flow of the images, as it happened to Buster Keaton in The cameraman ( Edward Sedgwick, 1928).

This choice always involves a movement, it cannot spread itself from a passive state, it’s about taking office. Moreover, in Jancsó’s movies ( in which all the characters are on the same special level, interacting with each other, carriers of their own significant universe ) this choice is not imposed a priori by the director, but it is also given to the audience.

All his works stand as a report against the atrocities of the power and the oppression. Jancsó cares for allowing the spectator to agree or disagree with his point of view. At the same time, the long-shot garantuees Jancsò’s freedom to select what to show, but he shoots it in a complex way.

Jancsó has said several time that he found out the field gauge by chance and especially because of economical reasons, although this technique meets his ideological and aesthetic beliefs, as Jancsó himself has also said: “I really hope that this technique corresponds to my beliefs […] I believe that the camera and characters motions mean and convey a sense of restlessness, always represented in my works. For this reason, I think they instil a feeling of uneasiness which can allow to think about what happens to the humankind […] I try to show especially this feeling in order to let to know that there is a need to change inhuman atrocities and find humanity; so that the power of shadows, the power which is not human and not democratic has be destroyed; violence, which is not natural, has be destroyed. All in all, I hope that this style corresponds to the restlessness which is unfortunately my point of view for life and I also hope that with my works I can help to change all which is not human”.

It is often agreed that filed gauge and the camera motion stress the realistic meaning of Jancsó’s works. However, it has to be explained the concept of realism in Jancsó: for the Hungarian director it has never referred to the naturalistic vision of the world, but to main cores of real things. This is a realism which can be defined through Lucács’ Estetica: it is the heart of things and not its outer/external cover. The frame gauge is a method of the representation of the reality apparently more realistic, because it sticks more to the real life than the traditional editing. In any case, the realism shown through this technique is part of the false world of cinema.
In this sense, the long-shot, realistic method of representation, within Jancsó’s filmic universe, appears to be not naturalistic, not mimetic, and shows itself as artificial creation moment of making sense, as representation place ( just think about the obsessive circularity and the ritual gestures of Jancsó’s characters, they are all far from being a flat reproduction which imitates reality ), this “realistic” method strongly conflicts with itself making the manipulated, reconstructed aspect of the film look more defined.
From this point of view, Jancsò’s frame gauge, which is completely non-naturalistic, comes into contradiction with itself and it shows even more the manipulation within the scene.
This kind of “short-circuit” stresses the sense of “estrangement” which aims to prevent from a dependent and passive relation between the spectator and the film.

The shot also translates the absurdity of the rituals that the Power imposes on his victims in order to cancel any will. The camera shows itself to the spectator and draws the circular movements of individuals, living in a totalitarian and oppressive universe, unale to leave the circle that imprisons them, and despite this, they continue to move and wander endlessly.
In Jancsó's cinema the circle is the ultimate representation of oppression (except in “Red Psalm” and “Private vices, public virtues”). The circular motion never leads outside, but always comes back to itself, and there's no escape. The circle is the sign of the confined space of the prison, granting no way out.
The refusal of the plot and dialogue and therefore any other step that explain this narrative technique, is done for the same reasons.
On one hand it's the purpose of distancing the viewer from the material offered and other plans to make figurative and narrative sense of dehumanization, the illogic and absurdity of a universe completely dominated by power. The long-shot appears finally as a metaphor for the Domain, not only the social, but the chemical domain of cinema, the domain of directing a movie.

With this way of making a film the director, during the shooting, is the absolute master of everything that happens in front of the camera.
In contrast with the traditional cinema, however, the continuity of the long-shot ( for Jancsó, in particular) makes this power, which lies outside the field, coordinating every element.
The links exchanged between the characters in his films clearly adumbrate those powers.
Jancsó long shot sequence is thus an authoritarian approach, for the birth of the , during the shooting.
It is an anti-authoritarian hand at the moment of vision, offering the viewer multiple views and publicly exposes the authoritarian character and the director is directing the film as in the office.

He shows the power (and his power of film-making) to weaken it, making us understand the mechanisms, which has lost meaning in its way.
Jancsó dismantled, before our eyes, the trappings of power (and the movie, among all the traps, is one of the most effective).
Perhaps knowing more about these traps would allow ourselves to block them sooner or later and to avoid their fall, as happens with the partisans of Sandor, who are desperate because ignorant of these mechanisms.

Estratto dal Libro "La tecnica del tiranno" di Giulio Marlia, Del Bucchia Editore, 2010