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Makes a Peckinpah movie seem like a Japanese bullet train!
on 17 August 2015
I love world cinema but this is just pretentious arty-farty tosh reduced to a snail's pace, with lingering shots that last minute upon minute, trying to eek out every drop of decay that the surroundings and characters of the rundown Hungarian commune inhabit. Actually, I couldn't care for the characters as they all come across as losers, even though the acting is quite good. What sets this film apart are two factors: the black-and-white photography is absolutely brilliant, but that in itself cannot carry the film that is over 7 hours in length, where every scene seems quite disjointed from the next. The second factor is a bit more disturbing. That the director incorporates a scene of animal cruelty to a cat with a child being responsible. We all know that children can be cruel to animals, but I found it in bad taste, especially in today's modern cinema. So, after watching nearly half the film, I switched off - owing to the aforementioned scene. Which is a bit of a shame as other critics absolutely loved the film. But even without the cruelty scene, you would have to a very dedicated world cinema buff to endure the ultra slow motion of many of the scenes. I feel it would suit few tastes. Some of the dialogue was quite banal too, stilted, unrealistic, nonsense, just trying too hard to add to the sense of impending doom; or poetically philosophical, a (sometimes bad) trait that Eastern European cinema goes for. This occasionally works, but here the philosophy was meaningless, a poor attempt to incorporate elements of Krasznahorkai's novel. Therefore, if you still want to watch it good luck, though you have been warned. As other reviewers have indicated, Satantango is a bit like Marmite: You'll either love it or hate it. I sort of loved it in a strange way up to a point, the cinematography keeping me viewing, but animal cruelty is not what you expect from an accomplished director. So one star folks.
p.s. It would be a poor show to review a film having only watched half of it, so 2 days later I resolved to watch it to the end, having fast forwarded the cat cruelty scene as it is quite graphic. Maybe I shouldn't have bothered. I am even more convinced that it is a load of pretentious tosh dressed up as the Emperor's New Clothes. Satantango only won 3 very minor awards on the film festival circuit, primarily for its innovative/experimental concept. If you like rain - some of it so obvious that a hose was being used - people walking in rain and mud forever, wind machines churning piles of rubbish along a street while people walk in rain, that sort of thing, cameras panning at a centimetre at a time across a deserted room, etc., etc., etc. then maybe it's for you. Even taking away the cruelty scene, I found it irritating, inconsistent, with continuity errors, scene errors, ridiculously overlong - the edited version could well be less than 2 hours - stage-managed, nauseating, unreal to life, over dramatic bordering on smug in its supposed brilliance, scene upon scene filled for its own sake, not driving the drama forward at any real pace. I fast forwarded most of the second part of the movie, where dialogue, or a spoken narrator were not present as the scenes just lingered far too long on one unwavering shot. As I said the cinematography is great, but the film as a whole just does not do it for me. Far too self-indulgent for its own good. I love world cinema but this film was delivered by Amazon, was watched once, but will not join the 800 or so films in my collection. And that's really unusual for an Artificial Eye film.