Sunday, September 28, 2008


Finally, after a number of years waiting to do so, I've seen Bela Tarr's "Sátántangó" (in three Netflix installments, spaced over a month, interrupted by vacation). It was worth the wait.

On a purely formal level, I'm not sure there's a single shot over seven hours I wouldn't be happy to gaze at for seven more. Just one unbelievably rich, gorgeously constructed image after another. Partly the sheer quality of the black and white film, partly his tendency to deal with depth by having everything in focus (allowing the viewer to shift his/her gaze round much as one does in reality), partly his unerring compositional genius, often using symmetrical shots (like the long, straight roads perspectivally attenuating into the distance) as a kind of continuo, a pedal point anchoring the others. Within almost every shot, there are dozens of elements which, themselves, contain tons of fascinating detail and, consequently, imply an enormous history. The town is like a depository of time.

The sound is also incredible; the musical interludes are fine but more the actual groans, shuffles and spatter of the environment.

And, of course, the people. Opaque on the one hand but mostly due to the grime and oppression of centuries, believing to one degree or another in their autonomy, but still essentially pawns. The sheer stolidness, but with a glimmer here and there. The awful, virtually alien Estike.

Amazing film. Jon, I know it's one of your favorites (maybe your #1) and I think I remember you gearing up a while back to watch it through it a sitting. Did that ever happen? I was picking up quite a few in-movie echoes but likely missed some due to the time span over which I watched. I'll certainly be buying the set for myself sometime soon. I can easily imagine viewing it on at least a yearly basis.

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New arrivals:

Michael Rodgers, solo disco on Black Petal
Christopher McFall - This Heat Holds Snow
Kassel Jaeger - [ee[nd]]
Marcel Duchamp - Complete Music (SEM Ensemble)
Roscoe Mitchell - Nonaah
Teiji Ito - Watermill

5 comments:

robert said...

This is pretty high up on my Netflix queue as well. Not sure if I'll stagger it out like you did or go for the epic event. In a way both options are intriguing. Anyway I loved Werckmeister Harmonies, so looking forward to checking this out.

Jon said...

I watched it in about a 20 hour timespan, but I often take breaks during even 90 minute films.

I actually prefer Werckmeister Harmonies (on one viewing of each), but I do always have a soft spot for works of extended length. if you really think you could sit through 7 hours of that dance scene alone, you're a more tolerant man than I (well, we already know that actually). Tarr is incredible, though, we have a couple more of his still unwatched which we should check sometime soon.

Richard Pinnell said...

A couple of years after I bought it, Satantango still sits on a shelf here largely unplayed (I think I watched the first ten minutes when I first got it out of curiosity)

Brian's words make me want to watch it, Maybe one of these days soon.

_duif said...

I've seen it twice (once in cinema, once at home), each time with two breaks of about 45-90 minutes each. I really can't imagine watching this spread over several days. it's definitely worth the effort of 'making a day of it'. there is now an edition of this with some mouthwatering extras, by the way:
http://www.cduniverse.com/productinfo.asp?pid=7258487

Brian Olewnick said...

I didn't request the supplemental disc from Netflix, but I'll see it when I eventually pick up the set for myself. Still have multiple images from this racing through my head. Those horses in the empty plaza...