7th Hungarian Film Festival of Los Angeles
The absence of Béla Tarr’s The Man From London from the 7th Hungarian Film Festival of Los Angeles is a bit perplexing: Shouldn’t a program devoted to a national cinema include a new work by its greatest living director? Let’s be fair and assume that there are good reasons for Man’s absence (and briefly note that it’s second-tier Tarr besides) and focus on what is here — a varied slate of titles slanted toward the mainstream. After breaking through in Nimrod Antal’s fest-circuit hit Kontroll, Salvador Csanyi has broken through as one of his homeland’s biggest stars. He’s quite amusing as a cock-of-the-walk actor in Krisztina Goda’s comedy Just Sex and Nothing Else, the title of which refers to the newly minted imperative of its heroine, Dora (Judit Schell), a Budapest dramaturge smarting from a series of failed relationships. Dora is (fittingly) in the midst of restaging Dangerous Liaisons when she comes to her resolution; if her subsequent, life-improves-on-art revelation that Valmont might be virtuous doesn’t exactly break new rom-com ground, Goda’s film skips through its crowd-pleasing paces briskly. “Brisk” is the last word you’d use to describe Agnes Kocsis’ Fresh Air, a deadpan study of a mother and daughter at an emotional impasse. Their solitudes are color-coded; mom (Julia Nyako) in a sadly ironic red (her job as a restroom attendant offers little vibrancy), daughter (Izabella Hegyi) in a decidedly unenvious green (a burgeoning designer, she yearns to escape from their small, air-freshener-infused flat). The two women are, of course, more alike than they realize, and if the way the script brings them together feels contrived, the visuals, at once expressive and economical, indicate that the filmmaker has a unique way of seeing. Vision — or a lack of it — forms the subject of Lora, a mostly muted (and then occasionally overloud) drama about a pretty, aesthetically inclined young woman (Lucia Brawley) grappling with psychosomatic blindness. It’s apparent from early on that the film will eventually show us the trauma that led to Lora’s condition, and that the scraggly, overgrown teenage screw-up musician (Peter Nagy) crushing on her will discover heretofore unknown reserves of maturity. What’s pleasing is following a carefully mapped narrative as it moves between time periods, while director Gabor Herendi rhymes certain key visual compositions and, in the stirring final moments, uses potent imagery to suggest a massive sensory awakening. (Music Hall; thru Thurs., Oct. 18. www.hungarianfilmfestivalla.com.)
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