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Béla Tarr Film Retrospective + Italian ‘Dangerous Foreigners’ Thriller ‘The Unknown Woman’ in New York

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has just begun an homage to Hungarian director Béla Tarr, which runs until March 28. Titled “Reel Epics: The Films of Béla Tarr,” the series is the first complete Los Angeles retrospective of the director’s work.

I’m unfamiliar with Tarr’s films — though I do recall that his The Man from London (above), screened at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, had both ardent admirers and equally ardent detractors.

“Critics have rightfully hailed Tarr as one of filmdom’s criminally undersung geniuses,” Ed Halter wrote in The Village Voice about a year ago. “Susan Sontag once boasted that she saw Satantango over 15 times (likely the cause of her signature white hair streak). If 20th-century cinema begins with the montage frenzies of Vertov and Griffith, possessed by a cocksure project to remake history and the world, then it ends with the long sigh of Tarr, brutally conveying the inescapable weight of history and human limitation through monuments of unblinking vision.”

The director himself will be present at the Man from London screening on March 28.

“Reel Epics: The Films of Béla Tarr” schedule and synopsis from the LACMA website:

Werckmeister Harmonies (Werckmeister harmóniák)

March 7 | 7:30 pm

A mysterious travelling circus featuring an embalmed whale ignites a violent revolt among the citizens of a remote village. Tarr’s magic realist film depicts a series of Kafkaesqe events as seen through the eyes of a naïve postman. With a haunting score by Hungarian composer Mihály Vig. “Unusual, dreamlike and highly recommended.” — Jim Jarmusch

2000/b&w/145 min. | Scr: Béla Tarr, László Krasznahorkai; dir: Tarr; w/ Lars Rudolph, Peter Fitz, Hanna Schygulla

Damnation (Kárhozat)

March 8 | 7:30 pm | Introduction by Bérénice Reynaud

Tarr’s first film noir, is a dark tale of illicit romance between a loner and a married cabaret singer. “Some of the most magnificent black-and-white images shot anywhere in the world.” — Michael Atkinson, Boston Phoenix

1988/b&w/122 min. | Scr: Béla Tarr, László Krasznahorkai; dir: Tarr; w/ Miklós Székely B., Vali Kerekes

Family Nest (Családi tuzfészek)

March 14 | 7:30 pm

Tarr’s debut feature made at age twenty-two is a humorous depiction of three generations crammed into a single flat during a housing crisis.

1979/b&w/100 min. | Scr/dir: Béla Tarr; w/ László Horváth, Lászlóné Horváth

The Prefab People (Panelkapcsolat)

March 14 | 9:20 pm

In this improvised film Tarr examines “a blue-collar marriage dissolving under pressure from Communist-era poverty, masculine inadequacy, and restless depression.” — Michael Atkinson, Village Voice

1982/b&w/82 min. | Scr/dir: Béla Tarr; w/ Judit Pogány, Róbert Koltai

The Outsider (Szabadgyalog)

March 15 | 7:30 pm

A violinist stumbles through fatherhood, marriage, factory, hospital work, and eventually military service. Tarr’s first film edited by wife Agnes Hranitzky.

1981/color/122 min.| Scr/dir: Béla Tar; w/ András Szabó, Jolán Fodor

Almanac of Fall (Oszi almanach)

March 21 | 7:30 pm

In this chamber piece combining expressive lighting and color camerawork to stunning effect, an old woman becomes ensnared in the power plays of her children and caretakers. “The elaborately choreographed mise en scène is consistently inventive and unpredictable, making use of highly unorthodox angles…but the drama itself (whose Strindbergian power and sexual conflicts are realized with an intensity and concentration that suggests John Cassavetes) carries plenty of charge on its own.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum

1984/color/120 min. | Scr/dir: Béla Tar; w/ Hédi Temessy, Erika Bodnár, Miklós Székely B.


March 22 | 2 pm

Tarr’s masterwork tracks the strange and often drunken happenings in a crumbling village on Hungary’s remote prairie. “I’d be glad to see it every year for the rest of my life.” — Susan Sontag

1994/b&w/435 min. plus an intermission and dinner break | Scr: Béla Tarr, László Krasznahorkai; dir: Tarr; w/ Mihály Víg, Putyi Horváth, László fe Lugossy

The Man From London (A Londoni férfi)

March 28 | 7:30 pm | Special guest: Béla Tarr

Based on the Georges Simenon novel, Tarr’s new film is his first shot outside his native Hungary. Tilda Swinton stars as the wife of a dock worker in a seaside town, whose entire life is changed when her husband witnesses a murder in the middle of the night and winds up with a suitcase of cash. “A tour de force of camerawork, not only in the textures of light (moving in a single take through glaring sun, inky obscurity and misty grey haze), but also in the painstakingly choreographed movements, which give the film the edge of a forensic investigation.” — Jonathan Romney, Screen International

2007/b&w/132 min. | Scr: Béla Tarr, László Krasznahorkai; dir: Tarr; w/ Miroslav Krobot, Tilda Swinton | Not available on DVD


Tickets are $9; $6 for LACMA members, seniors (62+), and students with valid ID. Price includes both films in a double bill except where noted. Tickets to the second film on a double bill are $5.00 and are only available at the museum box office prior to the screening. Tuesday Matinees: $2; $1 seniors (62+). Please note: Many programs sell out. Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased at the museum box office (323 857-6010). All films and guests are subject to change and many films are unrated and may not be appropriate for younger viewers. For more information or to check current programs, call the museum box office at (323) 857-6010, visit or subscribe to the Film Department’s e-newsletter by emailing

The first U.S. theatrical engagement for writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore’s mystery-drama The Unknown Woman, (previously known as – no pun intended – The Unknown) will finally take place on May 30, 2008, at New York City’s Angelika Film Center.

The Unknown Woman follows Irena, a mysterious Ukrainian woman (Xenia Rappoport) who finds work at the home of an affluent Italian family. While Irena does what she can to uncover the truth about the family, the past catches up with her.

The Unknown Woman was shortlisted for the 2008 best foreign-language film Oscar, but failed to make the final cut. Tornatore’s drama, however, fared quite well with the Italian Academy, winning five David di Donatello awards: best film, best director, best actress, best score (Ennio Morricone, his eighth collaboration with Tornatore), and best cinematography (Fabio Zamarion).

Additionally, The Unknown Woman was the top choice of the Italian film critics and of the 2007 European Film Awards audience vote, and won Tornatore the best director prize at the 2007 Moscow Film Festival.

In addition to her David di Donatello win, Rappoport received a best actress nomination for the European Film Award. Variety called her performance “one of the most deeply nuanced film portraits of a woman who has lived through the hell of human slavery.”

Also in the cast, Michele Placido, Margherita Buy, Pierfrancesco Favino, Clara Dossena, Claudia Gerini, and veteran Ángela Molina (one of the two “objects” in Luis Buñuel’s last film, That Obscure Object of Desire).

Xenia Rappoport The Unknown Woman photo: Marta Spedaletti / Outsider Pictures

Full Frame Film Festival

The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, to be held from April 36 in downtown Durham, N.C., has announced that the recipient of this years Career Award is filmmaker William Greaves.

The Career Award presentation will showcase Greaves first film, The First World Festival of Negro Arts, as well as a 20-minute section of his most recent work-in-progress on Harlem.

Also (synopses from the festivals press release):

  • The Fighters (1974) This 1971 [sic] fight movie, starring Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, tracks Alis first, unsuccessful effort to reclaim his heavyweight title from Joe Frazier after it was stripped from him because of his radical politics. Classic cinéma-vérité footage of training and trash-talking is followed by the magnificent fight in its entirety.
  • Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey (2001) The film covers the life and times of the world-renown African-American Nobel Peace Prize Winner and United Nations statesman, who not only pioneered the organizations peace-keeping and conflict resolution strategies, but also was one of the leading advocates of the UNs Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968) Greaves presides over a beleaguered film crew in New Yorks Central Park, leaving them to try to figure out what kind of movie theyre making. This wildly innovative landmark remains one of the most tightly focused and insightful movies ever made about making movies.
  • Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 ½ (2005) Reunited with two actors and one particularly outspoken member of his crew from Take One, Greaves endeavors to make another film about making a film about two middle-aged actors coming together to play reunited lovers.

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1 comment

Andre -

Perhaps she does look like Swinton. Could also be your imagination…


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