Maestro: Bela Tarr
Known For: philosophical films with long takes, mostly his seven hour film Satantango.
Influences: Tarkovsky is obvious. Accroding to Tarr, Rainer Werner Fassbinder most of all.
Masterpieces: Satantango and Werckmeister Harmonies
Better than you remember: none
Box Office: numbers not available.
It may be required by law that every article, post, discussion about Hungarian director Bela Tarr mention Susan Sontag, the great critic who championed him as one of the few high points remaining in modern cinema, saying of his opus Satantango, "Devastating, enthralling for every minute of its seven hours. I'd be glad to see it every year for the rest of my life." In many ways that statement elevated knowledge of the film and it's director to new levels of awareness in the movie-lover community and as the movie made the rounds at festivals, cinematheques, and art theaters became something of an endurance test and badge of honor for those who've taken the plunge (which, and I mean to brag, I did two years ago and it remains the best cinematic experience I've ever had). By comparison, Tarr's more recent two films have seemed short and tight, clocking in at under three hours each and still featuring all the trademarks of a Tarr film.
The apocalyptic drab town of Werckmeister Harmonies
First and foremost among those trademarks are Bela Tarr's nearly infamous long shots. According to Tarr, long shots are preferable to allow the audience to immerse themselves deeply into the world of the film. Tarr wants to ease you into his realities and allow you to live in them fully for the most optimum emotional effect (although often times it may take a while to allow ourselves to become accustomed to the pacing, don't worry the film's first shot usually provides that time, like the almost iconic opening to Satantango.) These slow realities are filled with Tarr's (and regular co-writer Laszlo Krasznahorkai's) philosophies and meditations on spirituality and the nature of man. While that might sound like a drag, it all comes together quite successfully for Tarr whose films do seem to creep into your subconscious and leave you ponderous for days (or longer).
Tilda Swinton: the most "mainstream" actress he's worked with.
Tarr's been making films for over three decades but (like Weerasethakul last week) is finally starting to raise his stature in the cinematic landscape. His back catalog has recently been released on DVD and his latest, The Man From London, positioned itself as a more accessible (despite an opening hour of silence) noir genre experiment featuring Tilda Swinton. Unfortunately reviews were mixed and distribution has suffered, just as Tarr could use an extra bump. His next yet to be released feature The Turin Horse was hotly anticipted for Cannes this year but it was not to be. Still hopes remain high. Tarr's influence on modern film, independent film, and in particular Gus Van Sant's recent movies is undeniable. And that influence stands to grow as the man continues to put out difficult masterpieces that challenge the viewer and the medium and find exposure to a larger and larger audience who will discover themselves to be grateful to have been exposed to the brilliance of Bela Tarr.