Béla Tarr Roundup

Tarr Bela, I Used To Be a Filmmaker (2013, Jean-Marc Lamoure)

A making-of-The Turin Horse. Crazy the amount of work, the lighting and helicopters and camera rehearsals and actor-torturing that went into this. Tarr’s movies tend to look primitive and masterfully complicated at once (see: opening shot of the horse and cart) and it seems like a behind-the-scenes documentary could demystify it to death, but I’d already seen set-building stills and couldn’t help myself from wanting to know more. Even when they show the scene construction then immediately play the scene, it’s still just as powerful.

Also watched part of The Turin Horse again with Jonathan Rosenbaum’s audio commentary. Can’t recall if this is a direct quote or not, but he calls it possibly the only Bela Tarr film that’s not a comedy. Writer Laszlo Krasznahorkai has a terrific paragraph on their collaboration quoted in the commentary about 42 minutes in, which I played back a bunch of times, also written here. “Making films isn’t a matter of fairness.”

Damnation (2013, Janice Lee)

“This is no weather for men to live in.”

Been looking forward to this book for a long time, but it turns out it wasn’t for me. Maybe the endless anticipation and delay didn’t help – after all, I read Susan Howe’s Chris Marker book the same day I first heard about it, and the surprise of its existence added to the enjoyment, but this one had already gone from pleasure to chore by the time I began. The ebook was sent to me by the publisher before it came out (thank you! apologies for this “review” and the two-year delay). I prepped by watching the Bela Tarr film, then discovered that I hate reading books on my laptop, so kept pushing it aside after trying to start a few times.

Opens as a biblical PontypoolFlame Alphabet apocalypse, and heads into variations on Tarr/Krasznahorkai worlds: guys compared to dogs, sleeping with neighbors’ wives, watching the endless rain. Ruined towns, howling wind, blank pages like the blackouts between scenes. Some more specific characters, like a drunken Satantango doctor, a disturbed girl in the barn with a scared cat, a lingering accordion player. Speaking of Pontypool (the book, not the movie), there are too many points of view, and much language repetition that felt like it was building a poetic flow which I couldn’t follow at all.

Hotel Magnezit (1978, Bela Tarr)

Belligerent Uncle Tibi is getting kicked out of hostel, has money problems with his roommates. This was Béla Tarr’s graduation film, and is my first exposure to his earlier verite-style.

From the uncredited film description: “First he offends and attacks all of his roommates, then he starts to cry and tells them that he was a pilot in WWII and he’s left his soul there. An interesting portrait of human reactions and changing emotions.”