The Man From London (2007, Bela Tarr)

Tarr Noir! Tarr doing suspense/crime drama seems unnecessary since his use of the camera and film editing are suspenseful in itself. The crime doesn’t seem that important (until the very end) and the lead guy is kind of an ass, so the suspense remains in the shots and editing, not much carries over into the story. To get my other complaint out of the way (I quite liked the movie), the sound is off because everything is distractingly dubbed into French and English (voices include Edward Fox of Gandhi and The Duellists and Michael Lonsdale of Stavisky and Out 1). It must be for commercial reasons, but I don’t see it playing anywhere except a few film festivals, so what commercial reasons? Seeing the cast of Satantango hanging out in the bar only makes the dubbing seem weirder. Research indicates that there’s a Hungarian version out there, so I guess Tilda Swinton (French-dubbed in my version) gets screwed in both.

image

Big-time Euro film producer Humbert Balsan (who worked with Youssef Chahine, Merchant/Ivory, Elia Suleiman, Lars von Trier) committed suicide during production, complicating things. Based on a novel by Georges Simenon (Night at the Crossroads, Betty, Magnet of Doom) which has been filmed before in the 40’s. I dig the Mih├íly Vig music, but it’s no Werckmeister Harmonies, which I listened to obsessively for a month.

image

Offscreen, a man is selling his theater for a suitcase full of money, which gets stolen. The thieves get the suitcase onto the docks, under the watchful eye of stoic Maloin, then one kills the other and runs. Maloin snags the money and hides it. That’s the first half hour in maybe six or seven shots, with no dialogue at all. Crisp b/w images with achingly slow, fluid camera movements, as can be expected.

image

Maloin takes time out from the crime drama to torment his family. He pulls daughter Henrietta (cat-torturing poster girl from Satantango) out of work, buys her furs, then gets screamed at by wife Tilda Swinton. Inspector (from London) questions blond killer Brown. We don’t find out exactly how Maloin kills Brown at the end before returning the money to the Inspector. That’s about it for the plot. Most of the time a very enjoyable flick. Moments of otherworldly Twin Peaks-ish parody during dubbed dialogue scenes are immediately forgiven when we come across some Satantango actors performing random hilarity in the bar, urged on by an accordianist. If Tarr fans can’t have the sustained magic of the last couple movies, at least we can all enjoy some drunken accordian antics together.

image