February 2nd, 2014 / 2:23 pm

R.I.P. Miklós Jancsó

The great Hungarian filmmaker Miklós Jancsó passed away on 31 Jan; he was 92 years old. (The New York Times obit is here.) I first learned about Jancsó from David Bordwell, who wrote a detailed analysis of the man’s 1969 film The Confrontation in Narration in the Fiction Film (some of which you can read here). That film has been difficult to find (though there’s an unsubbed copy at YouTube), but I was able to track down The Round-Up (1966); The Red and the White (1967); Elektra, My Love (1974); and what would quickly become one of my favorite films, Red Psalm (1972):

(Here‘s a detailed essay by Raymond Durgnat of that film.)

Jancsó is perhaps best known for his work in the late 60s and early 70s, which saw him systematically exploring the question of how few takes he could use to make a film, while simultaneously exploring how complex those takes could be in terms of staging. The 87-minute-long Red Psalm consists of 27 elaborately designed shots (see the above clip for an example); in this way, the film was a forerunner of Aleksandr Sokurov’s 2002 single-take feature Russian Ark, as well as Alfonso Cuarón’s recent Gravity. (Cuarón named Jancsó as his primary influence in this Empire interview). Fellow Hungarian Béla Tarr was also much influenced by the man’s work, and has called him “the greatest Hungarian director of all time.”

Despite Jancsó’s significant artistic achievements, he’s been unfairly overlooked by most US film distributors. But some of his work can be found both online and on disc. It’s well worth tracking down.

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  1. Jeremy Hopkins

      Reasons I Should’ve Realized the Super Bowl Would Suck:
      1. It’s #48
      2. It features two western teams.
      2&1/2. But it’s being played in NJ.
      3. I actually have today off when normally I work all weekend.
      4. It’s incredibly popular.
      4&1/2. Therefore, nobody likes it.
      5. Despite everything, it’s still anybody’s game.

  2. Jeremy Hopkins

      Sorry, dude.
      If you delete my comment, that’s cool.
      Just please don’t ban me.

  3. A D Jameson

      Haha it was a pretty boring game. (I just got back from watching it at a friend’s.)

      We will all someday be banned from HTMLGiant.

  4. isScottHammer

      For some reason I thought he might have already been dead. I love Jansco so much- by far the most hypnotic films I have ever seen (more than Tarkovsky, more than Tarr). Russian Ark comes pretty close to what Jansco was doing, but really, Sokurov’s style is elsewhere (I’m thinking of Taurus, Moloch, and The Sun)

  5. mimi

      you may think that (well, you probably don’t think about this at all)
      you may think that the reason i read htmlg is to hear about the dirty laundry, or watch the flamewars (spectator sport for me), or leave goofy comments about bearsuits

      but the real reason i read htmlg is for posts like this that hook me up with authors and auteurs etc that don’t know about

      netflix only has elektra, my love…

  6. mimi

      ps – since the seahawks beat the niners, they HAD to beat the broncos

  7. A D Jameson

      I took my bear suit to the cleaner’s, and wouldn’t you know it, they lost it! I could really use it this winter, too.

  8. mimi

      ursa major bummer, man

  9. An inventory of all my writing on cinema | A D Jameson's Blahg

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