The Round-Up (1966)
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At the 1966 Cannes film festival, a movie whose title sounded like a western – but was actually Hungarian – caused a sensation and launched its director into the international cinematic scene, where he was to remain for a decade. The film of hypnotic beauty and daring technique was The Round-Up (Szegénylegények, literally translated as The Outlaws) and the director was Miklós Jancsó, who has died aged 92.
Jancsó's highly personal style had blossomed in this, his fifth feature. The Round-Up is set on a bleak Hungarian plain in 1868, when Austro‑Hungarian troops tried to break the unity of the Hungarian partisans by torture, interrogations and killings. There is little dialogue as horsemen drive the people to and fro, with power continually changing hands. Jancsó's ritualistic style manages to make the particular Hungarian situation into a universal parable of evil,
Jancsó’s death after a long illness was announced by the Association of Hungarian Film Artists.
Known for his long takes and for depicting the passage of time in his historical epics merely by changes of costume, Jancsó won his Cannes award for Red Psalm, about a 19th-century peasant revolt.
In the 1960s, critics ranked Jancso alongside great directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman. However, it was his use of scantily clad women, symbolizing defencelessness, which drew big audiences in prudish communist Hungary.
Jancsó's films included My Way Home (Így jöttem, 1964), The Round-Up (Szegénylegények, 1965), The Red And The White (Csillagosok, katonák, 1967), Silence and Cry (Csend és kiáltás, 1968) The Confrontation (Fényes szelek, 1968) and Red Psalm (Még kér a nép, 1971) - for which was awarded the Best Director prize at Cannes in 1972. He was at the forefront of the revival of Hungarian cinema and was known the starkness of his themes and a distinctive visual style that influenced filmmakers as diverse as Sergio Leone and Béla Tarr.
He received lifetime achievement awards in Cannes in 1979, Venice in 1990 and Budapest in 1994.
Fellow Hungarian director István Szabó said: “Jancsó occupies a unique place in Hungarian culture. If he hadn't made such films as The Round-Up, My Way Home,...
Call me a size-queen if you like, but I'm horribly partial to movies that pour on the long takes and frog-march the viewer without a cut through enormous oceanic expanses of screen-time. Pulling off movies entirely composed of shots lasting 10 or more minutes is a difficult undertaking, but when directors succeed, it's so satisfying that one almost mourns the impending arrival of a cut.
So I'm disappointed that Béla Tarr, today's supreme master of the serpentine take, as exemplified by his latest movie, The Turin Horse, has decided to retire from making movies in order to found his own film school in Split, Croatia. My fondest hope is that he will create a fanatical, cult-like environment wherein he can hothouse a generation of film-makers as grouchy, misanthropic and visionary as himself,
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