Best of Eastern Europe?

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Best of Eastern Europe?

Postby wpqx » Sat Sep 24, 2005 4:29 am

Being that I live close to Facets, I have a pretty good connection to the films of Eastern Europe. I thought about maybe having a poll for which of the Eastern countries made the best movies, but I thought that would be too easy.

I've grown quite fond of Hungarian film recently. I have not seen a great deal of films from the country, but all I've seen have been well worth recommending. Granted like many times, the first was still the best, being Miklos Jansco's Red and the White. More and more of these films are slowly coming out on DVD, I know that Love (1971) is an upcoming Kino release, and it is also coming out in Europe within the next month or two.

The country that has always gotten the most attention through film history and what not was Czechoslovakia. The Czech new wave to me is actually pretty weak. It only lasted for roughly four years, and I don't think it produced a great deal of proportional masterpieces. Sure there is always gonna be praise to go around for Closely Watched Trains and The Shop on Main Street, but even those films are slightly overrated imo. I still look forward to seeing Diamonds of the Night, which is disturbingly out of print, hopefully Facets will get on this, they released that and Report on the Party and the Guests on VHS many years ago, so here's hoping.

Yugoslavia is a tough country to understand in it's film movement. The availability of it's films are extremely scarce. A recommended list of films from the nation basically reads like a filmmography of Dusan Makajevek and Emir Kustirica. The few films not directed by these two men are completely impossible to find here in the US, so it's hard to judge a countries films based on the work of just two directors.

Poland has on the hand has a much more varied cinematic output. There are numerous key players from here, and lots to go around on various home video sources. Kieslowski is obviously the most popular among modern audiences, and the majority of his important Polish films are available on DVD, I still wait for the Calm Before the Storm, but I'm picky. Both Andrzej Wajda and Andrzej Munk are easy to come across. Munk because he only made 2 1/2 films, all of which are essentials, and Wajda has a whole boxed set of films available. I've been gradually discovering the work of Kryzstoff Zanussi as well, and his Family Life is a great place to start.

Then we have the USSR. The country with teh longest and most influential film history, and the only one of these countries still making a dent in international film (Bela Tarr notwithstanding). Historically the edge has to go here, simply between the montage movement and Andrei Tarkovsky it's hard for anyone to compare. I know Alexander Sukorov is hit or miss amongst this crowd, and I've still only seen Russian Ark, so I can't make any judgement calls.

So call this a general salute to the films made under the iron curtain, contribute what you can, make a list if you feel like it, but salute the films from this period in this part of the world.
wpqx
 


Re: Best of Eastern Europe?

Postby returning » Sat Sep 24, 2005 5:18 am

Makk's Love is an extraordinary film, and certainly one of the more definitive films of the Eastern european sensibility. Of his other work I've only seen Cat's Play on VHS and his mediocre if not intriguing Dostoyevsky film The Gambler.

Second Run DVD in the UK seem to be releasing alot of Eastern Euro gems, along with Love they're also releasing Makk's Another Way as well as rarities from Kawalerowicz, Forman, and Bugajski.

There really need to be more Jancso's available on DVD, The Round up and The Red Psalm especially.

I'd add Armenia to the list, although Paradjanov and Peleshyan are often grouped under USSR, both of they're ouevres have a distinctively folkloric style unique to their country.

A few other favourites: Guney (Turkey), Vlacil (Czechoslovakia), Wojciech Has (Poland). Speaking of Vlacil, I remember signing a petition recently for Marketa Lazarova to get released I believe by MOC sometime, but haven't heard anything about it since.

I'd also like to reccomend Ibolya Fekete's Chico, recently released by Facets.
returning
 

Re: Best of Eastern Europe?

Postby Johndav » Tue Dec 27, 2005 7:41 pm

My recommendations (from old Communist bloc):

The Double Life of Veronique (Kieslowski)
Werckmeister Harmonies (Tarr)
Dekalog (Kieslowski)
The Red and the White (Jancso)
Love (Makk)
The Saragossa Manuscript (Has)
Switchboard Operator (Makaveyev)
Round Up (Jancso)
Valerie and her Week of Wonders (Jires)
Closely Observed Trains (Menzel)
Daisies (Chytilova)
Mephisto (Szabo)
Alice (Svankmajer)
Another Way (Makk)
Time of the Gypsies (Kusturica)
A Blonde in Love (Forman)
Angi Vera (Gabor)
Kanal (Wajda)
Dimensions of Dialogue (Svankmajer)
Mother Joan of the Angels (Kawalerowicz)
No Man's Land (Tanovic)

Notables to see:

Satantango (Tarr)
Marketa Lazarova (Vlacil)
Intimate Lighting (Passer)- forthcoming dvd ordered
Diamonds of the Night (Nemec)
Tavaszi Zapor (Fejos)
The Attached Balloon (Zheliazkova)
The Oak (Pintilie)
Eroica (Munk)
Buttoners (Zelenka)

overrated:
Ashes and Diamonds (Wajda)
Knife in the Water (Polanski)
Kolya (Sverak)
Underground (Kusturica)
Shop on the High Street (Kadar)
Johndav
 

Re: Best of Eastern Europe?

Postby wpqx » Thu Dec 29, 2005 6:55 pm

Saying Ashes and Diamonds is overrated is heresey in my world, but to each his own. Interesting that many of your picks I'd also recommend, but there seem to be very subtle differances in titles (Switchboard Operator, A Blonde in Love, etc.) Bela Tarr remains unknown in the US, but I hope that more of his work will continue to be released here, in any format. Werckmeister Harmonies in particular.
wpqx
 

Re: Best of Eastern Europe?

Postby Johndav » Thu Dec 29, 2005 8:24 pm

Heresy eh? Well i can always excuse myself by saying i wasn't quite in the right mood for Ashes and Diamonds. Er, except i didn't expect The Spanish inquisition (noone expects the Spanish inquisition!). For what it's worth i remember Britain's former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer Dennis Healey picking it as one of his favourite films.

Any recommendations from Romania or Bulgaria?
Johndav
 

Re: Best of Eastern Europe?

Postby madhuban » Thu Jan 12, 2006 7:27 am

hi wpqx, 60s czech cinema being overrated, is heresy in my world and john, "underground" in your overrated list is no less!

a wonderful list of recommendations though. i'm adding to them:

Current - Istvan Gaal (a 60s film from Hungary)
The Innocent Sorcerers - Andrzej Wajda (my favourite Wajda film really!)
The Cremator - Juraj Herz (you might revise your opinion about the czech new wave...though Herz says he was kind of a marginal figure and never identified himself with the movement)

M
madhuban
 

Re: Best of Eastern Europe?

Postby A » Fri Jan 13, 2006 12:28 am

From what I've seen and loved (excluding USSR):

1. "Daisies" (Vera Chytilova / Czechoslovakia / 1968)
2. Few of Us (Sarunas Bartas / Lithuania / 1996)
3. Underground (Emir Kusturica / Federal Republic of Yugoslavia / 1995)
4. "The Turning Point" (Frank Beyer / East Germany / 1983)
5. "A bite to eat" and "Diamonds of the night" - one really should watch these two together! (Jan Nemec / Czechoslovakia / 1960 + 1964)
6. "Red Wheat" (Zivojin Pavlovic / Yugoslavia / 1971)
7. "Dimensions of Dialogue" (Jan Svankmajer / Czechoslovakia / 1982)
8. "The Red and the White" (Miklos Jansco / Hungary / 1967)
9. "Identification Marks: None" (Jerzy Skolimowski / Poland / 1964)
10. "Adoption" (Marta Meszaros / Hungary / 1975)
11. "Dancing in the Rain" (Bostjan Hladnik / Yugoslavia / 1961)
12. "The Girl" (Marta Meszaros / Hungary / 1968)
13. "The Little Mermaid" (Karel Kachyna / Czechoslovakia / 1975)
14. "When father was away on business" (Emir Kusturica / Yugoslavia / 1985)
15. "Sergeant Jim" (France Stiglic / Yugoslavia / 1955)
16. "The Lease" (Kristijonas Vildziunas / Lithuania / 2002)
17. "Normal People" (Oleg Novkovic / Federal Republic of Yugoslavia / 2001)
18. "Black Peter" (Milos Forman / Czechoslovakia / 1964)

and I also liked very much:

"Audition" (Milos Forman / Czechoslovakia / 1963)
"Do you remember Dolly Bell?" (Emir Kusturica / Yugoslavia / 1981)
"A short film about killing" (Krzysztof Kieslowski / Poland / 1988)
"Time of the gypsies" (Emir Kusturica / Yugoslavia / 1988)
"Innocence Unprotected" (Dusan Makavejev / Yugoslavia / 1968)
Upir z feratu (Juraj Herz / Czechoslovakia / 1981)
"Dark Blue World" (Jan Sverak / Czech Repuvlic / 2001)
"The Ride" (Jan Sverak / Czech Republic / 1994)
"A quiet week at the house" (Jan Svankmajer / Czechoslovakia / 1969)
Rdeci boogie ali Kaj ti je deklica (Karpo Acimovic Godina / Yugoslavia / 1982)
"The Flat" (Jan Svankmajer / Czechoslovakia / 1968)
"Faust" (Jan Svankmajer / Czech Republic / 1994)
"Ashes and Diamonds" (Andrzej Wajda / Poland / 1958)
Spokoj "The Peace" (Krzysztof Kieslowski / Poland / 1976)
"Hands Up!" (Jerzy Skolimowski / Poland / 1981)
"Closely observed trains" (Jiri Menzel / Czechoslovakia / 1966)
"Knife in the water" (Roman Polanski / Poland / 1962)
"Czech Dream" (Vit Klusak, Filip Remunda / Czech Republic / 2004)
"Hi Tessa!" (Robert Glinski / Poland / 2001)
"Naked among wolves" (Frank Beyer / East Germany / 1963)

Probably forgot some, but still much to see!
A
 

Re: Best of Eastern Europe?

Postby Johndav » Fri Jan 13, 2006 2:40 am

Has anyone seen the Bulgarian film The Attached Balloon? In my imagination it's already among the handful of most wonderful films. So perhaps a film to stay unseen to avoid possible disappointment! I'm delighted to find it gets great ratings at imdb, confirming my belief.

And the American Quay twins' British animated short Street of Crocodiles should really be classed as a Czech film, not only for its quirky macabre surreal character, influenced by Svankmajer + Kafka- it obviously sees itself as Czech. I love it.
Johndav
 

Re: Best of Eastern Europe?

Postby madhuban » Fri Jan 13, 2006 6:13 am

a great list A. haven't seen many of them simply because they are just not available with renting libraries here. i'd have to buy them or charm the library proprietor into procuring them. have been doing the latter so much lately, that i wonder if he will suffer another long wishlist from me. will work on that nevertheless

since you mentioned kieslowski, i'll add my favourite film, "Camera Buff". Though the later kieslowski has his distinct charms, my preference for this early film has never changed. He lost the lightness of touch and the wry humour of this film as he went on to make the Dekalog and the trilogy (though there are rare glimpses of it in "White"). A story about a man who buys a camera to photograph his newly born child and becomes obsessed with it, "Camera Buff" is a delightful film about film itself. If you haven't seen it, please do.

M
madhuban
 

Re: Best of Eastern Europe?

Postby wpqx » Fri Jan 13, 2006 5:29 pm

My favorite early Kieslowski (pre-Decalogue) would be Blind Chance. I just love the whole concept of it, and I'm one of those people who can lie awake nights for hours wondering how much would be different with one little detail. That film brilliantly shows how one man's life would be radically different from an event that wouldn't seem to have much weight. I have not yet seen the Calm Before the Storm, so perhaps I'll get a new favorite someday. I would like to get a closer look at some of his films, there's so much in all of them, that I really think I'm missing something with just one viewing.
wpqx
 

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