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No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos (2008)

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The lifelong friendship of the great cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond and their impact on American cinema.

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Title: No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos (2008)

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The artistry, triumph and lifelong friendship of the great cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond. With film school equipment, they shoot the Soviet crackdown of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. As refugees they struggle in Hollywood, finally breaking into the mainstream with their pivotal contribution to the "American New Wave." Written by Director

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11 January 2009 (USA)  »

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Laszlo & Vilmos: The Story of Two Refugees Who Changed the Look of American Cinema  »

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Prolonged lifetime tribute
22 September 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I'm afraid this left me unmoved and it was, at times, tedious. The trouble is that it's not one thing or another - or the thing that it is not interesting. It's a film made by an acolyte who was given his first chance by Vilmos and there's not much digging beneath the surface at any time. The thing it most reminded me of was one of those tributes to a person winning a lifetime award at BAFTA or the Oscars - but extended for a rather lengthy 1hour 45minutes.

The film is a rather bland mix of the outline story of their lives, extracts from the films they shot (a reminder of how many interesting American films were made in the 70's and 80's compared with today), some war stories and interviews with actors and directors who say what good cinematographers they were/are. Also, a little about their seminars in Budapest.

I didn't really come away any wiser about their personal relationship except that they used to get jobs for each other in the early days and they expressed great personal affection. Ultimately, they were good mates. This is a relationship which exists between many people in many jobs and is not necessarily inherently interesting unless you go beneath the superficial. I got no emotional charge from the film, unlike the other writer on this page, and I'm as ready as anyone to be moved by a film.

There must be some interesting stuff there. We were told that after they'd escaped from Hungary they got their girlfriends out and, I think, married them. That was that on that subject and different wives seemed to get interviewed for the film. Apparently, the existing Hungarians in Hollywood gave them no support when they arrived and the way they shot films was, no doubt, found rather threatening by the unions in those days. Nothing about all that.

I'm not saying don't see it if you get the chance - just don't expect too much.


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