Bela Tarr

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I just watched "Damnation" for the first time last night. Definitely not my choice for "Feelgood Movie of the Decade", but an incredible film nonetheless. I thought some of the Bergman-type angst & prose-like speech was a bit over the top, but at the same time I can't really think how the story/atmosphere combo could have been pulled off otherwise.

The long takes were amazing & justified, and the scene where the lead character is barking with the dog at the end is amazing. The closest parallel I could make to any other directors is Bergman and (more appropriately) Tarkovsky. Maybe a bit of Fassbinder as well, at least in the melancholy of the party scene.

Any thoughts on Tarr? Has anyone seen Satantango or Werckmeister Harmonies? I guess his newest film is on hiatus after the producer died.

jay blanchard (jay blanchard), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 15:37 (seventeen years ago) link

I saw both Satantango and Werckmeister Harmonies. Both beautifully shot in b&w ... Obviously WH is an easier sit and more accessible, but I remember only getting restless in the last couple hours of Satantango's nine. Tarr really doesn't remind me of anybody else.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 15:55 (seventeen years ago) link

Has anyone seen a copy of the (what like bootlegged) Sátántangó dvds that are up on ebay? Worthwhile? [example]

WH is great & especially the opening scene (one shot if I remember right?) is incredible; I haven't seen Damnation yet.

andrew s (andrew s), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 17:46 (seventeen years ago) link

Quite frankly, being as the VHS is expensive and out of print, I don't see how the bootlegged DVDs are a bad choice. I highly doubt we'll see Satantango on an official release anytime soon, esp. since they seem to think that the VHS release should be so priced as to recoup costs of production (for reals).

Girolamo Savonarola, Tuesday, 22 March 2005 19:23 (seventeen years ago) link

Carlos Satantango:

Sorry, had to do it....

jay blanchard (jay blanchard), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 19:37 (seventeen years ago) link

i believe the correct response is "ROFFLE"

a spectator bird (a spectator bird), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 19:40 (seventeen years ago) link


I'm a little worried about the ebay copies, mainly because of the seller's feedback. The quality may be pretty bad.

I know has copies of Damnation and WH for sale on DVD-R for cheap. I've never ordered from them before--any experience with these guys? They seem to have a lot of hard-to-find asian films also.

jay blanchard (jay blanchard), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 20:25 (seventeen years ago) link

You can get a Euro Format double disk DVD of Damnation/Werckmeister Harmonies from Amazon UK.

WH is an absolute classic, amazing on every level. The book it's based on 'The Melancholy of Resistance' is well worth seeking out.

Soukesian, Tuesday, 22 March 2005 21:52 (seventeen years ago) link

I got a couple of discs from SHF (Mulholland Dr. pilot, Decline of Western Civ), they were easy to deal with and shipped quickly. He even threw in Battlestar Galactica on DVD (which was nice, even though I'll never watch it) without saying anything.

milozauckerman (miloaukerman), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 22:39 (seventeen years ago) link

Artificial Eye (the UK DVD cats behind the WH/Damnation double-disc have announced that they are working on a set for Satantango, so my advice is to be patient.

Eric H. (Eric H.), Tuesday, 22 March 2005 23:41 (seventeen years ago) link

Artificial Eye puts out some great stuff. I need a PAL DVD player now...

jay blanchard (jay blanchard), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 13:07 (seventeen years ago) link

Bela Tarr rules. Satantango is such an amazing film. It's remarkably well paced for being as long as it is.

you make me feel like a tyrannosaurus rex (deangulberry), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 18:35 (seventeen years ago) link

I've seen Werckmeister and Damnation. Both very good.

Great, Brave, True, Strong...adam levine (nordicskilla), Thursday, 24 March 2005 00:04 (seventeen years ago) link

my dvd of satantango just sits on my shelf, mocking me.

can i watch it in hour long installments? or will the effect be ruined?

ryan (ryan), Thursday, 24 March 2005 16:19 (seventeen years ago) link

one month passes...
It looks like Facets is releasing Tarr's first 3 films on dvd in the US at the end of June:

Family Nest, 1977
The Outsider, 1981
The Prefab People, 1982

andrew s (andrew s), Wednesday, 4 May 2005 23:34 (seventeen years ago) link


At max, I'd watch Satantango in 2 big chunks, pref in the same day.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 5 May 2005 13:01 (seventeen years ago) link

tarr wants people to see it without an intermission, but that's unlikely. i saw it in one screening interrupted by a coffee break.

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Thursday, 5 May 2005 21:44 (seventeen years ago) link

hmm. im thinking life is too short. mayben when im older...

ryan (ryan), Thursday, 5 May 2005 22:12 (seventeen years ago) link

I'd be up for Satantango, but I'd need to bring in food.

I'm not kidding, I'd need it to stay focussed after the four hour mark.

Soukesian, Friday, 6 May 2005 16:10 (seventeen years ago) link

My screening had a 90-minute dinner break.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 6 May 2005 20:12 (seventeen years ago) link

eight months pass...
Finding Beauty in the Miserable and the Mundane

There are, of course, a few other things you could do in the 420 minutes it takes to watch Bela Tarr's 1994 masterpiece "Satantango," which begins a six-day run today at the Museum of Modern Art. You could, for instance, commit slow spiritual suicide by watching 14 back-to-back episodes of "Everybody Loves Raymond." At seven hours, not including two scheduled 15-minute breaks, this Hungarian film is one of those unusual works of contemporary art that demand from the audience a concentrated commitment - the luxury of time.

Born in 1955, Mr. Tarr has built a reputation among dedicated cinephiles, particularly those lucky enough to travel the international festival circuit, where for the last few decades he has been a favorite if irregular fixture. Among his champions was Susan Sontag, who included him in her short 1995 lament about the state of the art, "A Century of Cinema." As the film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum has pointed out, Mr. Tarr's name was not included in a later version of this essay published in The New York Times Magazine. The omission not only further marginalized an already commercially marginalized artist, but also strengthened Sontag's pessimistic argument that cinema was a "decadent" art in the midst of an "ignominious, irreversible decline."

That's too bad; Mr. Tarr's work already presents its own formidable hurdles. Based on a novel by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, "Satantango" traces the fate of a small, isolated community that attaches itself to a mysterious messiahlike figure of dubious character. The opening scene, which seems calculated to weed out fainthearted viewers, tracks a herd of cows as they meanderingly exit a barn and enter the muddy yard of the near-desolate village, with its cracked building walls and prodigiously strewn trash. As he does throughout the film, Mr. Tarr shoots this luxuriantly paced scene in long shot, using his beautiful framing and richly gradated black-and-white tones to find beauty in every miserable and mundane corner.

In time, we meet the town's other slow-moving inhabitants - men, women and, notoriously, a young girl - none of whom appear more evolved than the wandering cows. The film is divided into 12 chapters and replicates, Mr. Tarr has explained, the structure of a tango used by the novel: six steps forward, six steps back. (The title translates as "Satan's Tango.") In more immediate terms, the film unfolds as a series of extended, occasionally overlapping set pieces that underscore the townspeople's ritualistic lack of forward motion. The first time we watch an alcohol-soaked barroom dance alongside an outsider looking in, the scene seems merely ridiculous; later, after that character commits suicide and we return to the bar a second time, the revel has turned into a dance of the damned.

In an interview in the online journal Kinoeye, Mr. Tarr explained his predilection for long takes: "The people of this generation know information-cut, information-cut, information-cut. They can follow the logic of it, the logic of the story, but they don't follow the logic of life." In "Satantango," life is beautiful and grotesque by turns, and never less than mesmerizing. In this grubby corner of the universe, men and women steal from one another, spy on their neighbors, walk (a lot) and drink themselves into oblivion, while a lost, lonely child tortures her cat, then lies in the weeds to wait for deliverance. (Animal lovers beware: although Mr. Tarr claimed in a 2001 interview that the cat was not harmed during the film and was now living with him, it is clearly in distress.)

"Satantango" certainly demands time, but the story - which can be read as an allegory for the collapse of Communism and the false promise of capitalism - is relatively straightforward, with little (at least as far as I can tell) of the intertextual complication of, say, one of Jean-Luc Godard's works. Indeed, the film is filled with long passages that have relatively little dialogue, which forces you to play close attention to Mr. Tarr's brilliant sound design - to the ominous buzzing of a fly, a fat man's rhythmic wheezing and the syncopated sounds of three men climbing a staircase. Plans are apparently afoot to bring the film to DVD, but as with Mr. Tarr's gorgeous long takes, these sounds of life are best appreciated in a theater like that at MoMA, where the sacred contract between film and filmgoer has yet to be broken.

"Satantango" continues through Monday at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, Manhattan; (212) 708-9400.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 11 January 2006 16:45 (sixteen years ago) link

Any solid info on where this Satantango DVD might be coming from?

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Monday, 16 January 2006 20:36 (sixteen years ago) link

It's coming out later this year in R1 from Facets (unfortunately). In the UK supposedly Artificial Eye is working to get it out.

Jeff LeVine (Jeff LeVine), Monday, 16 January 2006 21:14 (sixteen years ago) link

i want to see damnation again. is it available in the US?

adamrl (nordicskilla), Thursday, 19 January 2006 05:06 (sixteen years ago) link

damnation DVD is coming soon from facets also. they're releasing a whole slew of them in 2006.

a spectator bird (a spectator bird), Thursday, 19 January 2006 14:04 (sixteen years ago) link

This is great news. I've been eager to see Damnation for years. And it looks like Werckmeister Harmonies comes out in a month.

TRG (TRG), Friday, 20 January 2006 17:42 (sixteen years ago) link

one month passes...
Facets is the suckage... Grievous Werckmeister Harmonies DVD review from Slant: "The disc's image suggests the print was beaten to a pulp by the film's angry mob. Detail is practically nonexistent and the pixel-ridden blacks almost make it impossible to make out anything that transpires on screen..."

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Monday, 27 February 2006 18:25 (sixteen years ago) link

If the same is true of Damnation, they should be hanged.

Artifical Eye rarely does a bad job, if you have a region-free.

Cousin yogurt beard (nordicskilla), Monday, 27 February 2006 19:03 (sixteen years ago) link

three weeks pass...
The Facets WH video quality isn't nearly as bad as they make it sound. It's not great, but I've seen far worse.

sleep (sleep), Thursday, 23 March 2006 02:03 (sixteen years ago) link

aw i still have that DVD, still unplayed except for the first 20 minutes. (which were great!)

ryan (ryan), Thursday, 23 March 2006 02:59 (sixteen years ago) link

three months pass...
Where did you guys hear/read that Facets was releasing Satantango on DVD?

Roque Strew (RoqueStrew), Wednesday, 12 July 2006 15:29 (sixteen years ago) link

a spectator bird (a spectator bird), Wednesday, 12 July 2006 19:55 (sixteen years ago) link

Wow; oh my God; I hope it comes out soon

Roque Strew (RoqueStrew), Thursday, 13 July 2006 05:12 (sixteen years ago) link

Has anybody seen the Facets release of Damnation?

TRG (TRG), Saturday, 15 July 2006 15:05 (sixteen years ago) link

three months pass...
According to the current MFAH paper calendar, Satantango will be playing in Houston on the first weekend of '07.

Orgy of Pragmatism (Charles McCain), Wednesday, 25 October 2006 20:41 (sixteen years ago) link

two months pass...
...and so they did. We had the choice of watching the film over two evenings or a single day w/a 75-minute intermission. Knowing my limits, I opted for the two night arrangment. And even then, I still brought some snacks.

Some Thoughts and Observations.

-The episodic structure of the film lends itself to getting split up. If you wanted to, you could probably watch an episode or two at a time like a tv show.

-Is it just me, or does this film feel like a long mercy fuck between Bresson and Kieslowski?

-It does not feel that long while you watch it. I've seen 90 minute Godard films that felt longer.

-The big dance scene is the newest member of my favorite scenes evah list. And a few others are bubbling under.

-I didn't count heads at the start, but there were probably 50 or so viewers at the first screening. About 30 minutes in, I could hear at least one person snoring. About 90 minutes in (during the first ep about the doctor) there were noticible walkouts. About three hours in, during the cat wrestling scene, there were even more. At the end of the night, I counted 25 heads. The next evening brought at least 24 (some people came in late) and about 21 made it through to the end, though no one stayed for the end credits.

The Dusty Baker Selection (Charles McCain), Tuesday, 9 January 2007 21:02 (fifteen years ago) link

got the Satantango 3DVD set from my beau for christmas. really looking forward to it but we are waiting for the right lazy sunday so we can watch it all.

jed_ (jed), Wednesday, 10 January 2007 00:02 (fifteen years ago) link

do you live in houston?

i was really excited to see it this weekend at the MFAH, but i couldnt pass on the NFL playoffs :(

ryan (ryan), Wednesday, 10 January 2007 00:21 (fifteen years ago) link

haha - what a contrast of events!

jed_ (jed), Wednesday, 10 January 2007 02:04 (fifteen years ago) link

I can see Satantango in Minneapolis soon!

Eric H. (Eric H.), Thursday, 11 January 2007 03:09 (fifteen years ago) link

I want said Satantango DVD!

It was showing at the Film Center when I was visiting Portland but the wife was having none of it. NOW it's screening in Berkeley...on her birthday! Curse you, movie gods!

Rebel.yell.For.Internet.cakes (nordicskilla), Thursday, 11 January 2007 04:46 (fifteen years ago) link

"do you live in houston?"

I'm in the burbs near Sugar Land.

The Dusty Baker Selection (Charles McCain), Friday, 12 January 2007 17:15 (fifteen years ago) link

Michael Atkinson on Tarr, and something on the novel Satan Tango:

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 12 January 2007 18:47 (fifteen years ago) link

-The big dance scene is the newest member of my favorite scenes evah list.

See also: the one in Damnation that involves about 100 drunk people

trans pacific donkey cell phone (sleep), Thursday, 18 January 2007 15:08 (fifteen years ago) link

trilogy in Brooklyn, late Feb:

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 31 January 2007 18:23 (fifteen years ago) link

Plus Satantango March 3/4 at Anthology!

C0L1N B... (C0L1N B...), Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:25 (fifteen years ago) link

re seat comfort: BAM won't need a chiropractor on call.

I guess showing Werckmeister on Oscar night is maximal counterprogramming.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:40 (fifteen years ago) link

I have more trouble with the seats in the smaller BAM theaters than even the Maya Deren seats (and I assume that Satantango will be showing upstairs).

C0L1N B... (C0L1N B...), Wednesday, 31 January 2007 22:07 (fifteen years ago) link

seven months pass...

re an ILE post of Eric's ... the consensus on The Man from London tips negative, but is hardly unqualified.

Dr Morbius, Thursday, 6 September 2007 17:54 (fifteen years ago) link

Bela Tarr [Started by jay blanchard (jay blanchard), last updated Thursday, September 6, 2007 1:54 PM] 1 new answer

gabbneb, Friday, 7 September 2007 20:23 (fifteen years ago) link

Anyone know when this is out on DVD ? Can't find any info on it.

oscar, Monday, 10 September 2007 22:06 (fifteen years ago) link

how about letting it have a theatrical run first?

Dr Morbius, Tuesday, 11 September 2007 14:22 (fifteen years ago) link

So old skool you are!

Casuistry, Tuesday, 11 September 2007 17:19 (fifteen years ago) link

I've only seen his stuff in theaters, cuz I've read you can barely see anything on the DVDs that have come out.

Dr Morbius, Tuesday, 11 September 2007 19:34 (fifteen years ago) link

need to check this guy out. favorite director of finnish film critic girl i have impossible crush on.

poortheatre, Thursday, 20 September 2007 00:11 (fifteen years ago) link

she doesn't prefer Aki Kaurismaki?

Dr Morbius, Thursday, 20 September 2007 13:27 (fifteen years ago) link

Eek! My Kaurismaki ignorance lost me major points, too :(

(She didn't know who Hsiao-Hsien was, though..)

poortheatre, Thursday, 20 September 2007 13:54 (fifteen years ago) link

I can't remember where, but I seem to remember hearing that Artificial Eye had picked up The Man from London. Anyhow - I'd be shocked if it shows up on DVD before the end of 2008.

Speaking of Kaurismaki, Artificial Eye is supposedly releasing ten of his films to DVD in the next month or so - the set of Shadows in Paradise, Ariel & the Match Factory Girl should be available on the 24th!

Jeff LeVine, Thursday, 20 September 2007 23:41 (fifteen years ago) link

this is one of the few directors who probably does need to be seen on a big screen.

kaurismaki is some joke played by the finns.

That one guy that hit it and quit it, Sunday, 23 September 2007 23:47 (fifteen years ago) link

one year passes...

shd I see Man from London? tonight?

Dr Morbius, Friday, 26 September 2008 18:37 (fourteen years ago) link

four months pass...

JRo on Satantango:

Dr Morbius, Thursday, 12 February 2009 22:13 (thirteen years ago) link

I'm glad to see that the book's getting a translation too. Krasznahorkai is great.

wmlynch, Thursday, 12 February 2009 22:57 (thirteen years ago) link

two years pass...

Reports from the Berlinale on The Turin Horse

Gukbe, Monday, 21 February 2011 20:01 (eleven years ago) link

one month passes...

The Geirogeirgegege (nakhchivan), Wednesday, 6 April 2011 21:31 (eleven years ago) link

nine months pass...

Satantango on Super Bowl Sunday @ LincCtr from 2-11 pm, bitchez

see u dere

Literal Facepalms (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 1 February 2012 04:14 (ten years ago) link

lol counterprogramming

encarta it (Gukbe), Wednesday, 1 February 2012 05:20 (ten years ago) link

they're doing it Saturday too if you're versatile.

Literal Facepalms (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 1 February 2012 17:06 (ten years ago) link

the novel Satantango has finally been translated into English and will be available in 2 weeks.

Literal Facepalms (Dr Morbius), Monday, 6 February 2012 15:52 (ten years ago) link

three weeks pass...

I saw The Turin Horse yesterday in an empty theatre. I am still undecided about how I finally feel about it - at times, I found it incredibly pretentious and dirgey, even for Bela Tarr, which I guess is the point. But the more I think about it, the more I appreciate it, particularly the way it makes some of his other films seem like pretty light fare in comparison. It may be that we have less need for films like this now, but at least phenomenologically, it probably is the most effective of the recent clutch of endtimes art films. I wonder what it is like to work on a Bela Tarr set?

love, light, and walkabout-thinking (admrl), Saturday, 3 March 2012 16:12 (ten years ago) link

five months pass...

The big dance scene is the newest member of my favorite scenes evah list.
― The Dusty Baker Selection (Charles McCain), Tuesday, January 9, 2007 4:02 PM (5 years ago)

I'm two-thirds of the way through Satantango, so I just lightly skimmed this thread looking for some mention of that scene. Unbelievably good--not the actual tango part, the 10 minutes of insanity before that. I was trying to think of some way to describe the music and couldn't. If you'd asked me yesterday "What movie scene best captures what it's like to be drunk," I probably would have answered the "Rubber Biscuit" scene in Mean Streets. But Satantango beats it.

clemenza, Thursday, 16 August 2012 04:43 (ten years ago) link

three months pass...

I wonder why Turin Horse felt less eventful than Jeanne Dielman, when they had a great deal (albeit superficially) in common, but with Dad, the equine, and gypsies added here.

It did win me over after the first 20 minutes of near self-parody, and some of the framing was exqisite, reminding me of Dreyer, Tarkovsky, Ford (counterintuitively, tho I think the b&w helps too), and the silent masters. Dad-actor had a great silent-era face.

saltwater incursion (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 15 December 2012 05:27 (nine years ago) link

Going to get around to watching it in the next week. Been tough to get myself in the mood for it though.

Gukbe, Saturday, 15 December 2012 05:29 (nine years ago) link

Found this from Sicinski:

Inside the hovel, Tarr stages the lives of the father and daughter as a kind of dour, Kafkaesque structural film, Jeanne Dielman without the tension.

saltwater incursion (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 15 December 2012 06:46 (nine years ago) link

one year passes...

Got The Turin Horse out from the library. (I actually signed it out last year and returned it unwatched.) I didn't find it as weirdly interesting as Satantango or Werckmeister Harmonies, but it looked great, even at home, and it's the kind of thing where I want to go into school tomorrow and play the last scene for my students. Just so they can confront something that's beyond anything they can even begin to get their minds around, and in the hope that a couple of them will vaguely remember it years later. (Sort of like when my grade 8 teacher showed us an NFB film of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery." I never forgot that.) The look on the old guy's face when his daughter would dress him was something. I was at a screening of Barry Lyndon yesterday, and the one line near the end describes that look very well: "utterly baffled and beaten," with a little extra baffled throw in, and even a strange sort of defiance. Their dinnertime ritual might be the most miserable thing I've ever seen in a film.

clemenza, Wednesday, 10 December 2014 02:40 (seven years ago) link

one month passes...
five years pass...

lmao I think I got the very last one of these

stylish but illegal (Simon H.), Monday, 11 January 2021 16:07 (one year ago) link

whoa! is the "intermission filmstrip bookmark" like a snip of the intermission frames from the actual film?

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Monday, 11 January 2021 16:14 (one year ago) link

My guess is: no, just a reproduction

stylish but illegal (Simon H.), Wednesday, 13 January 2021 21:10 (one year ago) link

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