Directed by: Béla Tarr
Starring: Mihály Vig, Putyi Horváth, László feLugossy, Éva Almássy Albert, János Derzsi
Bela Tarr’s Sátántangó (1994) is the first film to which I just plain refuse to affix a star rating. It isn’t that I think the film is so bad that it deserves zero stars, but I think it is impossible to categorize by that method. I will say that I largely hated the movie, found sitting through it (even in three doses) a chore—sometimes a distasteful one—and think I deserve some kind of award for trudging through the damned thing. And I do mean trudge. That said, I cannot say that the film is bad in any normal sense of the word. It’s technically very accomplished, and it is clearly what it means to be. I simply don’t care for what it means to be—seven hours and 15 minutes in the company of some grotesque people in grubby settings that I’d pay big bucks to avoid in real life. There is also an extremely distasteful sequence (yes, I understand what it’s saying) lasting about 40 minutes that involves an amazingly unappealing little girl torturing and poisoning a cat (Tarr claims the animal was unharmed, but I’m skeptical), which she then wanders around with (in stiff corpse form) until she doses herself with rat poison. The film is somewhat mystifyingly considered a comedy in some quarters, although there is some comedy in scenes depicting the communist bureaucracy. Let me put it this way: The film begins with an eight-minute shot of cows wandering around a muddy farmyard. That’s it. Well, the bull attempts conjugal relations (high marks for enthusiasm, zero for accuracy) and some chickens walk by, but that’s it. When the film finally gets to the human characters (who also spend a lot of time trudging through mud), I quickly wished I was back with the cows. Béla Tarr is contemptuous of movies, and it shows. It may, however, be more to your liking than mine, but be aware it’s a considerable investment of time.
Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present part one of Sátántangó at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 23, at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District, upstairs in the Railroad Library). Part two will screen the following week. Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com
In Brief: Extremely long (seven-plus hours), often highly-praised film from Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr about the lives in a rundown village, and the promise of something better from a man whose primary interest seems to be the money they’ve received from the government. Very much a matter of taste—and the ability to sit through an exceptionally long movie.