3 posts categorized "Hungarian Cinema"

July 06, 2016



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Klaus Maria Brandauer gives the performance of a lifetime as Heinz Hofgen, a passionately leftist stage actor, Bolshevik theatre director, and communist activist living in Germany during the country’s cataclysmic shift to Nazism from the ‘20s to the ‘30s.

Antiheroes don’t come more flawed or charismatic than Brandauer’s puppet-like character, as based on Klaus Mann’s novel of the same title.


This legendary film, directed and co-written by Hungarian director Istvan Szabo, is a Nazi cousin to Bernardo Bertolucci’s Fascist-themed “The Conformist.” There are notable corollaries between Jean-Louis Trintignant’s fascist assassin under Mussolini, and Brandauer’s survivalist / opportunist actor attempting to live a double life under increasingly hostile conditions.

Heinz’s dedication to his craft is certain. He lives to perform. Heinz studies dance with Juliette (Karin Boyd), a black mistress he keeps on the side. This shallow man may be a “provincial” actor but his winning portrayal of Mephisto in a large-scale production of “Faust,” captures the imagination of Nazi dignitaries.


In combining the myth of Mephistopheles with the legend of Faust, Istvan Szabo takes us through every step of Heinz’s gradual suspension of personal beliefs. It is, after all, the Nazi prime minister who is playing Mephisto to Heinz’s Faust. When the two men shake hands for the first time, His Excellency comments on Heinz’s weak handshake. “It seems the secret of acting is to portray strength, yet one is weak. Tabornagy studies the difference between Heinz’s personality and the one he creates on-stage as Mephisto. Like Hitler, Tabornagy (patterned after Hermann Göring) borrows from the theatre to create his own public and private image.  


Although Heinz does his best to insure the safe exit of his non-Nazi friends, he refuses to let go of his personal fame and occupation under his Nazi masters. Heinz loves admiring himself in mirrors. Once installed as the manager of the Nazi State Theatre by the German Prime Minister Tabornagy (Rolf Hoppe), Heinz gets a peak at his limited sphere of influence.


“What do they want from me now? After all, I am just an actor.” Heinz maintains a deception of self that goes deeper than even he can comprehend. While far from innocent, Heinz has a childish quality that allows us to empathize with his predicament if not with his choices.   

Eventually, when the opportunity presents itself, Heinz is able to repurpose the noble rhetorical ideas he once used to advance leftist ideals, this time in the service of Nazi ideology. The scene speaks to the liquid nature of political and ideological rhetoric.


Cinematographer Lajos Koltai captures the thick atmosphere of wartime Berlin and Hamburg with a naturalistic approach that compresses the drama into a pressure cooker of seething unrest. Disillusionment takes on a tragically melancholy appearance. What masks are “Mephisto’s” audiences wearing today?

Not Rated. 144 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

June 06, 2016



Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

Close_Encounters_with_Vilmos_Zsigmond-174058908-largeCannes, France —Pierre Filmon’s “Close Encounters With Vilmos Zsigmond” is a lovely doc about one of the most gifted and talented cinematographers in the business. This film will make you want to go back and watch movies such as “Deliverance,” “The Crossing Guard,” The Witches of Eastwick” and “Heaven’s Gate” for Zsigmond’s lush camera work.

Filmon makes no secret about his status as a newbie filmmaker; he asks his revered subject for advice about setting up shots.

If anything, such moments of amateurishness only make you appreciate Zsigmond more. However formulaic you can't help but be swept up by the film as interviewees such as John Travolta recount on-set experiences, such as making Brian De Palma's "Blow Out" with Zsigmond behind the camera.


Zsigmond recounts his early career growing up in Hungary during the 1956 revolution after studying cinematography at the Academy of Drama and Film in Budapest. His immigrant journey to Los Angeles in 1962 took the budding artist through a stream of B-movie work that couldn't disguise his genius. The rest is history. The films that Zsigmond made with such gifted directors as Robert Altman, Steven Spielberg, Michael Cimino, Richard Donner, George Miller, Mark Rydell, are the stuff of movie legend. Sadly Vilmos Zsigmond passed away not long after this wonderful was made. 

“Close Encounters With Vilmos Zsigmond” is a movie-lover’s dream; we are so fortunate to have this documentary about a true genius of cinema to celebrate his great legacy.

Not Rated. 90 mins. 

5 Stars

Cannes 69 Complete from Cole Smithey

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

January 02, 2009


ColesmitheyWith the haunting Hungarian song of would-be suicide "Gloomy Sunday" as its thematic centerpiece, this personalized story of World War II-era  Budapest becomes a satisfying romantic drama about four divergently different people.

The wartime drama centers around a lively restaurant called "Szabo," where the owner Joachim Krol shares a love affair with his beautiful hostess Erika Marozsan. The couple enters into a a ménage à trois with their newly hired pianist.


The Nazi invasion of Hungary turns German Szabo-regular Ben Becker into an SS colonel, who enriches himself by bartering the freedom of local Jews and threatening the future of our enthusiastic lovers. This movie is a gem.

No Rating. 114 mins. 

Three Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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