on 14 July 2011
This film's a spellbinding tapestry of images, and there's not a sailor in sight!
The plot (there's not much to speak of really) revolves around an old man (called Szindbad) recounting his many previous loves. It's a truly beautiful tale full of wonderful imagery, and every shot is like a beautiful painting, it's reminiscent of other Eastern European New Wave / surrealist films such as 'Daisies', 'Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors' and 'The Hourglass Sanitorium'.
Szindbad is considered to be a major classic of Hungarian cinema, and is well worth a few of your hard-earned forints!
on 17 September 2013
This remarkable film is based on the short stories of symbolist writer Gyula Krúdy. It recounts the memories of Szindbad and his different experiences with women whom he is unable to love, most of which are not in any order or relation to one another.
This film is an artwork of great beauty, in which I would place under the same genre as Paradjanov's "The Colour of Pomegranates", due to it's dreamlike cinematography and fast moving pictures. The small attention to details and the beautiful use of colour, also reminded me of another Second Run release, Jaromil Jires film "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders". This is not for everyone, as the focus of the film is not catered for the entertainment value, rather for the use of film as an art-form.
It is a film about the life of a womanizer who is foreign to the concept of love, who perhaps deeply wishes to love but is unable to and therefore shuns away any similar emotion channeled towards him. He is charming and although undoubtedly a despicable character, never hated. He is pitied by the audience for his wish to feel love, but is blocked by the psychological fence in his mind, making him a pathetic sorrowful figure.
The colours in the film are sumptuously used in this memoir of conquests, the cinematography is extraordinary, with a beautiful mixture of long take, "short" take (described by Huszarik as 'pictography'),extremely imaginative movements and a wonderful mixture of atonal experimental and also beautiful classical-style music. This film is pure art, with no other intention and is one of the great treasures from Second Run DVDs, but please note before buying that this is a symbolist, surrealist film and not a conventional mainstream one, so this film is evidently not for everyone.
Szindbad: An appreciation - new and exclusive interview with Peter Strickland
20 page booklet featuring a new essay by writer and film historian Michael Brooke
on 4 November 2011
This film undoubtedly contains some very beautiful sequences, although my feeling is that Huszarik excels at composing exteriors and in capturing the natural world but is rather less assured when shooting interiors. The opening sequence is very promising, comprising of a succession of fast cut close-ups, some distinguishable some not, while 'poor' old Szindbad is sent from pillar-to-post around the countryside in a horse drawn cart.
Then, immediately after the titles comes a sequence, which is far too long to my mind, and alienates me to such a degree that I have to work hard not to let it affect my appreciation of the rest of the film. Had the director cut straight to Szindbad's beautiful encounter with the nymph of the wood I think I would have flown with him. Unfortunately, the prolonged and silly dance sequence brought me crashing to the ground and I never really got up again.
The presence of the obscure fast cuts presage later events, in much the same way as with a Roeg or Resnais narrative. Although such edits are rather abrupt they are very much a formal narrative devise and rather less to do with experimentation per se. In the otherwise languid atmosphere that is as heady as the scent of lilies, such cuts tend to wake one up. The fragmented, elliptical narrative structure is diverting and enjoyable but hardly innovative even in 1971.
There is certainly an intoxicating quality to this film. I have now watched it a number of times and on more than one occasion I have felt my eyelids become very heavy as if the screen was exuding a sedative. I confess that I slumbered for several moments. I have to say that I am rather less enthusiastic about this film than the other reviewers and commentators. In fact Michael Brooke's research packed essay is more interesting to me than the film itself. The whole Second Run package is of course excellent but like Herz's Morgiana, also bought on trust, neither film is likely to leave my shelf very often.
I've had this since it was released and have been struggling with it ever since, trying to put my finger on what it is that doesn't appeal. Perhaps I can express it like this; in a line-up between The Virgin Spring and Elvira Madigan, it is the former that I'd rather watch.
Szindbad's solipsistic reflections are rather less deserving of our attention than the ornate 19th century settings and beautifully realised landscapes. He has enjoyed a life full of sex and seduction but very little, if any, love. As he drifts from one remembered liaison to another, like a shard of ice slowly diminishing from the overwhelming warmth of his surroundings, we witness the journey of a dead man.
on 3 April 2012
I've just recently discovered this gem of the Hungarian cinema on the
Second Run DVD series (many "lost" and recently restored excellent
films,especially of the Eastern Europe,can be found there).It's a feast
for one's eyes and mind.A visual masterpiece of rare beauty,full of
philosophical thoughts about love,the meaning of life and death.The
story is about a man looking back on his life,remembering many women he
once loved and now,at the end of his life road, trying to come to terms
with his own past.It is a slow movie,with lots of flashbacks of
beautiful women,gorgeous places and landscapes,fine interiors and
effective music.Not to be missed by the true lovers of good art-house
cinema .Highly recommended!
on 14 July 2011
You probably do not know the writer, nor the book, you have not heard about any of the actors or the director but here is the occasion to discover this world very different from the one of Hollywood and the TV series! If you want action, car-chasing or bombs exploding, don't buy this. The film does not have one clear storyline, it is more emotions, thoughts, feelings, it has an atmosphere that will enchant you. Latinovits, the male actor is unique, of course it is best if you understand Hungarian.
on 7 January 2013
One of the rave reviews quoted from on the packaging of this film is as follows: "One of the most beautiful films ever made" (--Graham Petrie) and we are told that it was chosen by Hungarian writers and filmmakers as one of the three best Hungarian films of all time. Well all I can say is, once again, don't believe the hype. Not that it isn't a very decent film and a very interesting example of East European cinema, but personally, no way would I regard it as a major masterpiece. A rather cosmetic, minor one possibly, but there are an awful lot of top-flight contenders and having watched this twice now, I think as far as the Western audience is concerned, it's relative obscurity must be what has exaggerated it's status. That combined with it's cool, period visual style. It is a wonderful example of the early 70s fashionable look: all retro camp and vaguely psychedelic. But it's actual content is not terribly compelling in my view.
For the art-house crowd I would say that the film's formal style is definitely the main hook. Quite idiosyncratic for Hungarian films, this is also probably what gave it such an impact on it's local audience. It must have really stood out. Fans of psychedelia will recognise it as one of those examples of Eastern Bloc movie-making of the late 60s/early 70s where the makers, obviously very conscious of the prevailing hip Western styles, have gone all out to match, if not out-do them for countercultural aesthetics. In this particular case the narrative is a stream of flashbacks which jump around creating a sort of mosaic structure into which are added rapid cuts and numerous extreme visual inserts to create a sensual visual stream expressing a sort of psychedelic organicism. In terms of the narrative, this relates to the central protagonist's hedonistic progress: an aimless bourgeois existence of sensual self-gratification centring on his womanising.
Based upon the stories of the writer Gyula Krudy (apparently regarded as a major stylist in Hungarian literary history), the film is set in the decaying Austro Hungarian empire of the late 19th century. The bourgeois decadence of the central character's lifestyle and the essential meaninglessness of his approach to life as a sort of glutting at the feast of the senses, is laid on like a trowel in director Zoltan Huszarik's adaptation of Krudy's texts. Evidently this is how we get to see a visual orgy of trendy Western consumerist imagery and countercultural cool successfully staged under the noses of Socialist censors --they saw an obviously implicit morality tale here; one in which the empty consumption of Western Capitalism is revealed as an ultimately un-gratifying life. Actually however, I suspect the director's real motive was to revisit and celebrate the central concerns of the Hungarian Symbolists --a major movement in the visual arts of the late 19th century. Hence, the film's heavy use of the symbolism of life and death; the organic stream of imagery associated with fecundity and decay evident throughout. And hence the heightened sensuality -- particularly colour. Referencing the earlier Symbolist mannerism in this way was not only right in terms of the story's historical scenario but was also entirely appropriate to contemporary aesthetic concerns of the early 70's (just as in the West, Art Nouveau had fed into countercultural visual style quite naturally under the influence of drug consciousness).
Visually, it is true that the film is something of a feast --but a decadent one. If you are familiar with Polish, Hungarian and Czech graphic design of the 60's and 70's, you will recognise the trendy look: the artful collage of textures and camp artefacts, grain and soft focus. The style is collage-based: a highly graphic synthesis of visual scenes against which the soundtrack never attempts to be less than artificial. However the claim that this represents beautiful visual poetry is undercut somewhat be the Symbolist excesses. The imagery isn't always pleasant or in the best taste. Chocolate boxy exterior scenes may certainly include ravishing winterscapes for example (presumably reflecting the protagonist's nostalgic idealised memory) but these are also often rather banal visions too (e.g. pretty maidens dancing in spring woods). Interiors and costume design, (particularly that relating to the central character's debauched later life) are often stylistically artificial, over-the-top and vulgar representations of late 19th century bourgeois taste. Deliberately so I'd say, because it fits with the thematic concerns of the film. But the point is that aesthetically the result is often somewhat queasy and unpleasant. Too consistently so to be regarded as genuinely beautiful in my opinion. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but calling it visual poetry is a bit of an overstatement.
If all this sounds interesting, the downside is the decidedly uninteresting narrative at the heart of the film. Dramatic engagement with character is sacrificed to the visual form. Dialogue is reduced pretty much to a stream of aphoristic statements and would-be bon-mots (usually on the part of the central protagonist who evidently imagines himself the world-weary sophisticate) most of which struck me as rather banal. Or preposterously silly. After a while listening to these characters blathering-on about life gets tiresome. I don't know if this was a translation problem or due to the lines not working isolated from their original prose setting, but the dialogue did not strike me as either poetic or profound or amusingly truthful in any way. The writing was certainly not that of a literary master and after a while I found the lack of engaging plot combined with the synthetic voice-over effect somewhat soporific. Structurally, the film's story begins at the end and ends at the beginning. These are the most memorable bits I thought. What's in between doesn't amount to much: an obvious tale about the foolishness of existence in which a man's obsessive chasing after women equates with the pursuit of life itself. Neat maybe, but a bit banal and obvious really. Certainly nothing engaging enough there to warrant being called a masterpiece.
Because of the problem with the film's writing I was going to give it a 3 star rating. The thing is though, flawed though it may be, this really is quite an interesting piece of cinema which I think many film fans will enjoy. It has originality, stylistic panache and is clearly the vision of a cinematic craftsman. So, enjoy if you can.
on 1 May 2014
a must-watch & must-have in ones library of classic films...these films always leave an impression on the mind. loved it.
on 6 March 2012
there's an abstract quality in the initial passages. then it literally loses the plot or perhaps it's trying to discover one. better that it stayed true to the first scenes. a film I would have stuck with when I had more patience... back in the 70's
on 13 October 2013
The photography is pretty good here, but it's wasted by being badly jump-cut together and with a next-to-nothing story. Also, the one special feature is an insipid fawning contemplation on the film. Comparing it to Stan Brakhage's bad home movie outtakes as a compliment? Oh brother. I'd give it a miss...