House Logo
Explore categories +

Bela Tarr (#110 of 17)

Marrakech International Film Festival An Interview with Director Béla Tarr

Comments Comments (...)

Marrakech International Film Festival: An Interview with Director Béla Tarr

András Szebeni

Marrakech International Film Festival: An Interview with Director Béla Tarr

Whatever the forbidding stature of his work, Béla Tarr was nothing if not gracious during a roundtable discussion at this year’s Marrakech International Film Festival. At the end, he even acknowledged that he knows “the roundtable is the most horrible thing for a film journalist.” Tarr is president of the jury at this year’s festival, which means mandatory morning viewings of each film in competition—and, if the rumors are true, much behind-closed-door deliberation. (Neither the festival’s assembled press nor its publicists have quite recovered from the shockwaves of Francis Ford Coppola’s landmark decision to grant last year’s jury prize to “cinema itself.”) Three days into this year’s festival, Tarr played it close to the vest, preferring to discuss his post-retirement career at the Sarajevo Film Academy’s film.factory—which sounds like heaven for cinephiles—and why, even if he’s no longer directing features, he’s far from finished with the “drug” of filmmaking.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Eric Henderson’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Comments Comments (...)

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Eric Henderson’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Eric Henderson’s Top 10 Films of All Time

I approached this project the exact same way I expect I would’ve handled being given a ballot in the actual Sight & Sound poll: by procrastinating until the very last second and making a lot of spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment rules to dictate how I could possibly whittle down dozens of films into a list of 10. (I know, everyone else probably would’ve said “hundreds of films,” but I’ve always been a little cine-anorexic.)

The list of “obstructions” ought to be familiar to anyone with any exposure to this parlor game: one per decade, one per country, one per genre, one per boyfriend. But having willfully backed myself into the corner of having no more time on hand, I am forced to use a list I’ve already built elsewhere: the list of films I previously designated as favorites on MUBI. I like using that as a starting point because my choices there seem neither too conservative nor too outré (or at least both simultaneously), and I first started ticking them off as an exercise toward building a list of my 50 favorite movies. Plus, I limited myself to one choice per director.

The number of “nominees” there now stands at a slightly lower sum than that original goal (how have I still not picked a Bresson?!), but it still seems the best middle ground I can find between favoring my, well, favorites and giving movies I consider to be among “the greatest” their due. The only major wrench in this plan is that, of the 46 movies shortlisted, all but about a dozen of them are from the U.S. And nearly half are from the span between 1966 and 1976.

Well, no point dancing around statistics. A strategy is a strategy, so onward and upward, in chronological order:

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Comments Comments (...)

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time

I can identify two elements common to the films that ended up on this list. They are either about feminine suffering and/or about the impossibility of language to ever quite translate feeling. The criteria which I came up with for this impossible, unfair, and incredibly fun assignment involved remembering the films that led me to think “This is one of the best films ever made” at the time I first saw them, and which, upon a re-screening, several years later, remained just as remarkable—perhaps for different reasons. Also part of the criteria was my (failed) attempt at not repeating directors, and making a conscious effort to go against a cinematic “affirmative action” that would try to represent different periods of time, countries, and genres. It’s also mind-boggling to notice how half of the list includes films made in the mid 1970s. But the list escapes traditional logic. It’s the warping, re-signifying logic of affect and memory that architected this list, which turns out to be nothing short of this cinephile’s symptom.

AFI Fest 2011: The Turin Horse

Comments Comments (...)

AFI Fest 2011: <em>The Turin Horse</em>
AFI Fest 2011: <em>The Turin Horse</em>

Béla Tarr might be a man of few words, but like the striking cinematic images he’s spent the better part of three decades creating, those words pack quite a punch. During his short introduction before a screening of The Turin Horse at this year’s AFI Fest, Tarr spoke softly and wisely about the many ways cinema and life intersect. He also showed a keen sense of humor toward the entranced audience: “It’s sunny outside, and you could have done a thousand things today, yet you chose to see a black and white, sad, windy movie.” If this statement is any indication, Tarr clearly understands the sacrifice both artist and viewer makes when engaging a film, how each group is woven together by the overlap of expectation and intent. It’s not surprising then that every frame of The Turin Horse, a wrecking ball of cinematic formalism and fury, is obsessed with the way weathered characters sacrifice energy, time, and breath one hellish minute at a time.

New York Film Festival 2011: The Turin Horse

Comments Comments (...)

New York Film Festival 2011: <em>The Turin Horse</em>
New York Film Festival 2011: <em>The Turin Horse</em>

Béla Tarr’s supposedly final film, co-directed by Ágnes Hranitzky, sees the filmmaker exhibit the tenacity and methodical approach of a crime scene investigator as he combs through the tedious daily mundanities of a destitute father and daughter in search of clues that might reveal a deeper purpose to the overpowering banality of human existence. As each monotonous day of The Turin Horse crawls by, Tarr and Hranitzky examine the pair’s routine from every angle, their unblinking lens an extension of their resolve to scrutinize every detail. Each of the film’s 30 meticulously planned shots seeks to unearth any possible comfort or profoundness hidden within life’s daily toils, but with every extraordinarily executed take, the filmmakers seem more convinced of the hopelessness of their search. Watching The Turin Horse, you sense the filmmakers imploring you to examine the evidence yourself, defying you to come to a different conclusion.

The film opens with a retelling of the unverified but well-accepted account of a cabman mercilessly beating his stubborn horse in the streets of Turin until a horrified Friedrich Nietzsche intervenes, throwing his arms around the horse’s neck and suffering a mental breakdown from the ordeal. Nietzsche lived out the rest of his life in demented silence, but as the film’s narrator wryly observes, “We do not know what happened to the horse.” Tarr and Hranitzky’s film concerns itself not so much with the horse in the incident, but with the everyday minutia of its impoverished owner (János Derzsi) and his dutiful but weary daughter (Erika Bók). The wind howls ceaselessly outside their stone house as they unquestioningly repeat their everyday business of getting dressed, gathering water, boiling potatoes for their simple meal, unsuccessfully attempting to hitch their deteriorating horse to its cab, and inevitably, absentmindedly gazing out the window.

New York Film Festival 2011: Miss Bala

Comments Comments (...)

New York Film Festival 2011: <em>Miss Bala</em>
New York Film Festival 2011: <em>Miss Bala</em>

Blame it on the idiot box. Thanks to the merciless adrenaline factory that is FX’s Breaking Bad and the inexplicably long-running Weeds on Showtime, every TV-savvy American is a card-carrying expert on the Mexican drug war. The former began as a crime-drama-with-cancer and wandered into the fray, while the latter made a valiant effort to execute a multi-genre pirouette out of it. Both shows seemed, at first, not long for our television landscape, lighting a short fuse and, after the fuse fails to blow everything to smithereens, finding inventive and not-so-inventive ways to keep the story moving forward.

Laura Guerrero, the circumstantial heroine of Gerardo Naranjo’s Miss Bala, seems to stumble backward into a massive, narcotics industry-versus-law enforcement fracas, then tries every opportunity to get out from under it. The inciting incident descends on the screenplay with a suddenness that recalls the man who takes a leak in the woods in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, seeming to transition from a distant object to a lethal, face-hugging force in the space of a split second. In the film’s subsequent reels, Laura makes several attempts to escape from the drawn noose of the conflict, which seems to rise up to greet her everywhere she looks, personified by a pug-ugly, mustachioed, barrel-chested brute who seems to be orchestrating the insurrection. (A strange moment, near the end, makes a barely there suggestion of a Departed-style double-agency.)