Sunday, 9 September 2007

A Londoni férfi

English Title: The Man from London
Director: Béla Tarr
Country: Hungary/France/Germany

The story, yet again based on a novel, follows Maloin, a regular joe who happens to one night witness a deal gone bad at the French port where he works. Maloin goes about his business, but with the knowledge of what had happened that night on the back of his mind, and also, it soon becomes apparent, with the British currency that he recovers from the harbour from that night. Soon, a man from London turns up investigating some missing money.

I really didn't like this movie but, oddly enough, I did like most aspects of it. What first caught my eye was the old-fashioned use of blacks and whites, in the style of the really old film noir of the early days of cinema. I immediately thought "awesome". There are not enough modern black-and-white films that have imitated the movies of old quite as well as The Man from London has. I also really like the point of view from which the story is told, and that is, from Maloin, who is not involved in the death at the beginning, but is hounded by this mystery as he tries to go on doing what he normally does.

Unfortunately, what will undoubtedly make this movie disliked is Béla Tarr's method of storytelling through his choices in cinematography. I haven't seen any Béla Tarr movies in the past, but it soon became apparent to me that he had a distinct style, in particular with his penchant for long takes. He wants the audience to really soak up each scene, and this is evident from the very first take, a 12-minute shot that sets the scene for the events to come. This makes the film very atmospheric, almost a snapshot of the environments familiar to Maloin, but also tests the audience's patience more than a few times. In fact, I noted that a lot of people left before the movie even ended, and as early as halfway through the 135 minute movie. Also, a lot of people would start whispering to one another whenever the next scene started to drag on. I respect Tarr's decision to do these long takes, but I admit even I thought that, most of the time, they went on for far too long.

I'm afraid that, apart from film buffs, who would no doubt find purpose in Tarr's long takes, I cannot recommend this film lightly. If you like Béla Tarr, I suppose you would probably like it, and if you like film noir, it's a good study on how to tell an otherwise noir story in a somewhat unconventional fashion while keeping true to the most of the conventions of the black-and-white crime genre. In fact, the story style, coupled with the long takes can almost make this movie classifiable as an anti-noir.

Q&A: I stayed for about half the Q&A session, but there didn't seem to be a lot of people interested in asking questions, so I left after a few minutes.

No comments: