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Shaggy Jancsó opens gloomy Magyar Fest

by Alex Deleon for
Budapest, Feb. 5, 2010
The 41st annual Hungarian film week (Magyar Filmszemle) opened on February 2 with a new feature film by silver haired Miklós Jancsó, who at age 88 is by far the oldest active Hungarian movie director and, in fact, one of the oldest working directors in the world today. 



















The title of the latest Jancsó opus is "Oda az Igazság" which translates roughly as "Justice out the window", is a reference to the end of the reign of the enlightened and beloved Renaissance era Hungarian king, Matthias Corvinus (1458-1490).   After the justice-for-all informed reign of this most popular of all Hungarian monarchs, the kingdom fell into corrupt disarray and it was said that royal justice was now "Oda", or gone ... Out of the Window.  Since Jancsó, who became famous and internationally recognized as the outstanding Hungarian film director with a series of remarkable films in the sixties and seventies,  is himself regarded as the next best thing to royalty in Hungarian film circles, this full-fledged feature film with major actors (Olbrychski, Cserhalmi, etc.) was eagerly anticipated.  The result, however, appears to be a major disaster.  The film was unanimously condemned by the magyar critical establishment with terms such as "Gigantic disappointment", deadly boring, no redeeming features, and simply a Waste of Time". One esteemed journalist went so far as to say in print: "Daddy Miklos has really fucked up this time" - (megbaszott mindent Tata Miklos...). If a seriously flawed film like Mr. Jancsó's "Away with Justice" was the best thing the festival had to offer this year as a gala opener, one is tempted to suspect that the entire Hungarian film industry is in dire straits. Audiences here are staying away from Hungarian films in droves as the imdustry seems to have entered a one-way tailspin.  With the latest Gala fiasco and the general sad state of Hungarian film in general one is tempted to say, "Oda a Magyar film iden" -- which is to say there isn't much to say about the Hungarian cinema anymore ... but "out of the window"...


The influential daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet  reports that this has been one of the worst years for Hungarian film generally, partially due to the Financial Crisis, but for other reasons as well.  On a steady downhill slide there were no Hungarian Feature films accepted by the big three festivals:  Cannes, Berlin, and Venice last year. The Magyar Film Union which is theoretically responsible for promoting Hungarian films in the overseas market, tries to save face by listing in the annual Szemle catalogue, various booby prizes awarded to Hungarian films (mostly shorts and documentaries) in secondary, tertiary and simply unheard-of film festivals such as, Wiesbaden, Bukarest, (Romania), Torun (Poland), Belo Horizonte (Brazil), Motovun (Croatia), Dresden, Lagow, Sochi and Zlin.

One slender ray of hope in an otherwise gloomy situation, is that this year one Hungarian feature with a oddly French title, "Biblioteque Pascal", (The Pascal Library) directed by Sabolc Hajdu", has been accepted by Berlin, but only in one of the Side-bar sections. Budgets for films, hospitality, and all kinds of film support, are down, but this is nothing in this part of the forest. The current difficulties have to due more with incompetence in many areas, while the real problem seems to be a crisis of creativity and originality leading to a dearth of films of interest either locally or abroad.  On saturday morning the  Magyar Nemzet blew the whistle out loud and called this simply "the worst Hungarian film festival ever".

Better luck next year.

Alex Deleon, Budapest

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