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The picture is becoming a little clearer with Kornél Mundruczó's work, this is his third feature containing brother and sister characters with incestuous feelings (following "Delta" and "Pleasant Days"). To me it felt very much a personal expression as opposed to anything particularly approaching universality. As with the protagonist from Delta, the "boy" (Rudolf Frecska) in this film returns from a distant institution where he's been conveniently forgotten about for many years. He arrives back home and seeks out his "creators". The Frankenstein's Monster of this movie is an unsocialised youth, he's had no mentor, and no love, a blank shell of a man with unchecked needs and desires; he needs to eat, he wants to mate, and he has to find out who created him.
Something that I like about the movie, but which is very hard to express cinematically is that it acknowledges that emotions and their expression are very separate. Film has always been about emotional expression, that for me anyway is one of the great lures, you see people who feel what you feel and the tears run down their faces; actors under this perspective are expert emoters. The "boy" here displays what psychologists call blunted affect, which means that he doesn't display emotional responses. This is usually the result of post-traumatic stress disorder; one can only imagine what happened at the orphanage or asylum or whatever institutions he has been through. It's therefore very hard for the viewer to connect, most people don't interpret emotion in any other context than emotional display, if someone cries they are sad, if they don't, they're not. This is something that can work well in a novel, but in a film is alienating.
It doesn't help that Mundruczó himself is playing the other main character, a film director, it's true that he's just playing a version of himself, but it's not how film grammar works, Fellini didn't go in front of the camera in 8 1/2, he used Marcelo Mastroianni. I have to be uncharitable and say that Mundruczó looks like a brute, it's perhaps a healthy thing to have film grammar (which in this case is really a type of fascism) upset, but it's not going to help this film get distribution.
When there's an audition for non-professional actors, some of the people there are very real, they're alexithymic, or out out of touch with their emotions. It's a healthy thing to see in a movie.
Something that Mundruczó has definitely demonstrated so far is that he has a command of look, quite overtly with Delta. Tender Son is shot very professionally with a cold beauty that reminded me very much of another Cannes "In Competition" black sheep of personal cinema, Tsai Ming-liang's "Visage" of a year before.
One great success of this film is that despite the unambiguously modern setting it somehow really does have the feel of the Romantic era, and that's no small feat. I'm no scholar of this sort of thing, but it may be to do with lack of exposition in the film, with a kind of tunnel-visioned lack of extraneity, and with a Romantic sense of nature.
Flies preserved in amber are fascinating in exactly the same way as this film, it's slow and it feels as if a personal childhood trauma of the director is being solidified in amber. When the camera does move, it's in a resinous drip. Key engrams are preserved, the simple banal beauty of an optic fibre lamp, a decadent tactile meal of peach halves (cf. the devouring of watermelon in Delta) in syrup, the slow drop of snow-flakes.
I fully expect the movie to sink without a trace, grief fixation and Genetic Sexual Attraction hardly being hooks to get bums on seats. However I think if anyone had a personal connection to this film, then it would speak volumes to them.
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