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Hungarian Cinema (Art Act Magazine)

Hungarian Cinema (Art Act Magazine)


by Radu Toderici / Transilvania IFF

The magic realism is still alive: Bibliothèque Pascal
Bibliothèque Pascal, the well-received film of the Hungarian director Szabolcs Hajdu, is a story about two kinds of fancy. On one hand, a fancy that’s miraculous, spectacular, childish, and first of all natural; on the other hand, a fancy that is rooted in literature and culture, fatal and sinister. The first has the inner logic of a dream; the second has the maliciousness of the human race. As in the mysteriously titled Bibliothèque Pascal the two kinds of fancy reach a point when they’re literally combating one against each other and as the childish fancy wins, we are clearly talking about a mix of comedy and satire. Nevertheless, Bibliothèque Pascal is as lighthearted as it is risky, with its intricate structure and its amalgam of stories, resembling at times the South American prose, at times cultural commonplaces like the snuff; the combination is sometimes so blunt that you might think you’re watching two different films at the same time. The director encourages the confusion by treating the three or four distinct segments of his film almost entirely different. This is why Bibliothèque Pascal doesn’t really allow you to consider it as a whole; some of its parts are better than the other, some rather feel like pastiche than comedy; nevertheless, visually the film is a treat, amazing you with the beauty of his special effects (remarkably, this is an Eastern European film based on them!) and making you admire its irony while capturing the atmosphere of a seaside village by moving the camera horizontally and catching a glimpse of a whole variety of characters, instead of focusing on the main one. The whole segment of the Bibliothèque Pascal resembles accidentally a similarly themed art house film of a very promising Estonian director, Veiko Õunpuu, made also in 2009, The Temptation of St. Tony, with its scary and grotesque cabaret scenes. But the film’s major achievment is that it manages to use some of the omnipresent themes in Eastern European cinema in a minor key, in a way that allows Bibliothèque Pascal to be simultaneously earnest and funny. Even though, like all recent, à la Terry Gilliam fantasies, Bibliothèque Pascal is at times hybrid, it is nevertheless a mysterious film, too, ambiguous in some ways, but ultimately enjoyable until the very last moment.

Almost confuse: Tender Son - The Frankenstein Project
Kornél Mudruczó is one of those directors who know a great deal about the art of making an austere film, giving you the minimum amount of information you need to understand the story so far. Delta, one of his most appreciated films, knew exactly how to be exasperating in this aspect, without losing the beauty of the film; Tender Son, on the other hand, screened at TIFF right after its premiere at Cannes this year, has the same minimalist approach towards the story, but from a certain point, the viewer is flooded with one revelation after another, a crime is followed by another, while the eventual film about human monstrosity that Tender Son was meant to be disappoints when it comes to its similitude to any concept of reality that Mudruczó had in mind. Of course, after all the cards are on the table, Tender Son relies mostly on the actors, with great results, as Mudruczó himself and the amazing Rudolf Frecska are giving their best in the role of a film director and, respectively, a strange teenager that still searches his father’s identity. Mudruczó and Frecska, together with a handful of episodic characters, manage to create tension and mystery, but until the end so many things remain unexplained, that you can’t really tell if they are simply omitted or they’re a part of a greater strategy, meant to confuse the viewer. The beautiful cinematography and the feeling of distance towards the events makes you feel, at the beginning and towards the end, that you are watching some strange version of Gerry; nevertheless, if Mudruczó is still a great director, the story, the script are vague and at times corny, with all the allusions to The Count of Monte-Cristo and the belief in forgiveness, and it would need so much more to be the kind of film that we would expect from Mudruczó after Delta.