Bela Tarr, "The Man from London" (2007).

Sep 09 2008

tarr

Speaking of immobility, Bela Tarr’s latest film, The Man from London, is also worth seeing, but good god, it’s slow — slow even for Bela Tarr. The movie has a classic noir setup: ordinary station guard witnesses a crime, comes into possession of a large sum of money, and ponders what to do with it as various characters (the police, the money’s true owners, the thief’s wife) slowly arrive at the seaside village. But The Man from London an even more spare take on the genre, as if Tarr had hollowed it out, leaving only skeletons and gestures to remain.

Everything I love about Tarr is here: the rumbling ambient sounds, the long back-and-forth pans inside rooms, the almost-constant drinking, a bunch of familiar folks from Satantango, the excruciating repetition of musical motifs — and yes, a surreal dancing scene with an accordion and balancing things on foreheads! — but all in all it feels too patently an experiment in form. The (almost) all-Hungarian cast’s French and English, it seems, is overdubbed (including Tilda Swinton’s French) — a nice touch to foreground the artificiality of the entire venture, as if no one truly fit their role — but it seems forced. (It’s like the reverse of Eastern Promises, another film masquerading as noir, where you had all these non-Russians playing Russians.) I hate to say this: for fans only. I’d see it again, but beginners should treat themselves to his earlier films instead.

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