Tag Archives: Miklós Jancsó

XL Popcorn – Red Psalm / Red Sorghum

So continueth the dictated film reviews! Damn these wrists!

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: Red Psalm (Még kér a nép)
Director: Miklós Jancsó
Year: 1972
Country: Hungary

Previously, I had seen The Red and the White by the same director. That was an example of an experimental way to present the barbarity of war in his native Hungary. I really enjoyed the film because the long takes and general confusion may be added to his message.

I am gonna be honest and say that I don’t think I particularly got what he was trying to do with Red Psalm. Again we see the director using long takes filled with impressively complex choreography involving a cast of up to 100 people. However, this is a very different type of experimental movie… it is an experimental musical.

All of the 26 long takes feature songs which are mostly Hungarian in origin, but there are one or two in English. The songs are meant to highlight feeling within the working classes of Hungary as the communist revolution took hold. At least, I think that’s what’s happening. I became a bit lost once the clothes started to come off and women were holding live birds between their breasts.

Praise must be given to the direction is that cannot have been easy to film. There’s a bit where they set fire to a church or church like building. Part of me wonders whether they meant to set fire to the neighbouring tree. They had to go with it as this would be a one take only thing, but I do wonder. Interesting film – but I don’t think I understood it completely. Yup. Not much to say.

red-sorghumTitle: Red Sorghum (Hong gao liang)
Director: Zhang Yimou
Year: 1987
Country: China

No prizes for guessing that had been by these two films eh? I actually had quite a few films to choose from depending on whether I wanted just a normal colour scene or just go straight for red. Even then, there was an Italian film I could have done too.

Red Sorghum is the second of only two films by one of my favourite directors (Zhang Yimou) that features on this 1001 list. The other is Raise the Red Lantern which ranks as one of my favourite films of all time despite the obvious tragic ending. He also directed Hero, House of Flying Daggers, The Story of Qiu Ju and the opening ceremony to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He is a pretty big deal in Chinese cinema.

One of the most interesting things about this film is that it was the debut of both the director and internationally recognized Chinese actress Gong Li. It’s nice to know that so early in his career the director found an incredible muse in this actress. When paired together this is a duo who can easily make me cry. This film was no exception. I think I’ve ever seen a film by Zhang Yimou that did not feature some sort of tragic ending.

If you’ve seen his films you will know that he has a good eye for colour. I mean, just watch any of the battle sequences in Hero and you’ll see what I mean. In contrast to the many colours you see in Hero there is only one palette in the Red Sorghum: red. And we’re not talking about rich red rather it is the red of a clay soil. You’d almost wonder if he had used a recycled sepia lens because everything is tinged with this colour.

Visuals aside this is a simple film until the last 20 minutes when the Japanese invade the area. Everything in this film prior to the invasion goes along at an almost dreamy pace until this moment when there are sudden flashes of violence. Because of what preceded it these flashes are all the more effective. This is most noticeable when one of the workers we have gotten to know is strung up and other workers are ordered to skin him alive. You only see the start of the initial cut by the entire sequence is chilling. So too is the final battle between the farmworkers and the Japanese forces.

This film brings me to 500 films from the list. Because of the trilogy is and two part films this does not mark halfway, however I will be there soon enough and it will be a joy to start making my way towards the finish should I ever make it. As this is a lot of films we are talking about and it took me 26 years and to make it this far.

Progress: 500/1007

XL Popcorn – The Red and the White

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 457/1007Title: Csillagosok, katonák (The Red and the White)
Director: Miklós Jancsó
Year: 1967
Country: Hungary

In my experience there are two main types of war movie: the grim and the gung-ho. I find it hard to think of a gung-ho war movie that I have enjoyed, so it’s lucky for me that The Red and the White is very much on the grim side.

If you think of a war film that has been shot pretty much in real time, where the character swap in and out and pretty much none of them survive for longer than 15 minutes let alone the whole movie. In terms of other films that I have seen, I would liken the filming style to Russian Ark but with a greater cinematic scope.

There are a number of beautifully executed wide-angled shots, which only goes to emphasise the bleakness of both war and the surroundings. There is a particular scene in the forest where army forces take a number of nurses from the local hospital and make them waltz… just as a display of power.

Very quickly in this movie you realise that you cannot can attached get attached to any particular character. Sometimes this works out ‘well’, like the execution of an officer by his superiors after he tries to rape a civilian. However, this tension of knowing that a substantial number of people you meet are going to die means that certain fears like ‘please do not kill the nurses’ run through your head.

The main thing that made me appreciate this movie is the confusion. As someone who knows next to nothing about the aftermath of the October Revolution I was in a good position to watch this film. This movie wants you to be confused. It wants you to find it difficult to discern which side is which. Both sides are vile and sadistic in their actions. One side (the Whites) are, on average, the less shitty side, but they are both pretty monstrous.

Considering the times we are living in, films like this have become all the more relevant. I don’t know anyone who has seen this – which is a pity.