The Hungarian filmmaker Miklos Jancso is perhaps the finest living example of the fickleness of what Northrop Frye called the stock exchange theory of criticism. In the 1960s and early ‘70s, Jancso was among the best-known Eastern bloc directors, acclaimed for his strangely lyrical historical dramas in which the violence of his country’s history was turned into a dance of hunter and hunted, oppressor and oppressed, with those roles changing hands at a bloody moment’s notice. In the late ‘70s he went to
The Film Society of Lincoln Center, which has long been one of Jancso’s strongest supporters, offers no answer in its upcoming series “Resistance and Rebirth: Hungarian Cinema, 50 Years After ’56,” but one of the tree components of the program is a seven-film tribute to Jancso, who is still an active filmmaker at the age of 85. In fact, he has a film in post-production right now. In the 24 years since his last
Jancso has always had an affinity for Jewish themes. As he explained in a 2002 interview with Andrew Horton, as someone of Transylvanian descent and half-Romanian, he always felt like an outsider in Hungarian circles, and identified with his Jewish cousins. Indeed, in the 1980s he seriously considered relocating permanently to
None of this should come as a great surprise to anyone who has seen his masterpieces, films like The Round-Up, The Red and the White, Red Psalm and Elektra, My Love. These films, with their omnipresent images of cruelty and oppression, built on shifting sands of power, of men and women stripped naked and paraded for the perverse amusement of their captors, echo the Holocaust almost directly, even when the events they depict are drawn from Hungarian history or, in the case of Elektra, Greek tragedy.
It is unfortunate that the Film Society is only showing one of Jancso’s post-1982 films, an off-beat comedy The Lord’s Lantern in
“Resistance and Rebirth: Hungarian Cinema, 50 Years After ’56” will be presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center at the Walter Reade Theatre (70