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1913, Budapest, in the heart of Europe. The young Irisz Leiter arrives in the Hungarian capital with high hopes to work as a milliner at the legendary hat store that belonged to her late parents. She is nonetheless sent away by the new owner, Oszkár Brill. While preparations are under way at the Leiter hat store, to host guests of uttermost importance, a man abruptly comes to Irisz, looking for a certain Kálmán Leiter. Refusing to leave the city, the young woman follows Kálmán's tracks, her only link to a lost past. Her quest brings her through the dark streets of Budapest, where only the Leiter hat store shines, into the turmoil of a civilization on the eve of its downfall.
Sunset is a very strange movie. Very dicey, as moviegoers would put it (quite mildly) in their jargon. "Decipher me or I'll devour you!" seems to be one of the surreptitious, sphinx-like latent messages that fit into the so-called "Septième Art scene". Sunset's authors are certainly in search of expression. My first question is : what percentage of computer-generated imagery was actually used in here? Second question: what was the ratio of mixed back-projection used? Third : what's the incidence of cast-direction improvisation as passers-by move themselves into the field and then out of the scenery ? Fourth doubt: do such aesthetics follow on purpose the example of Elephant director Gus Van Sant? Or, was it by mere coincidence that the Metteur-en-scène abusively devised plongées, blurs, impressionistic touches, and low-key illumination? Not even Godard used to notoriously film his actors on their backs.
Included premises are (i) a pastel technique of Impressionist paintings and (ii) a cubist plot that blends details, but never focuses on main things or motives. This film arrests the viewer visually - by its imagery intricacy, not by its sheer creativity, though. Dramatically speaking, the viewer understands nothing of what inherently "happens". Either the former deciphers the latter, or else is devoured by boredom. One can hardly solve these anecdotal puzzle pieces according to the logic of narrative discourse. It's ultimately impossible to trace the relation between any particular sequence and the previous one, or the following one for that matter. The succession of scenes is ultra-rough and meaningless, not pleasant, to say the least. Costumes are exemplary and interiors do allow a sense of being in Budapest in 1913. By suggestion, however, never by scenic precision. Ultimate clues, here, are as follows : Sissi was ill-intentioned & no-good, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was criminally oppressive, WWI was inevitably brought in and on by thieves, arsonists & rebel nihilists in order to fix such an intolerably unbearable world. The overall rhythm of this movie is nevertheless very heavy. Its narrative, shall we call it cube-futurist? Its final scene is a kind of homage deus-ex-machina quoting Kubrick's famous traveling in the trenches of 'Paths of Glory.' The Hungarian director, however, reversed the direction of the traveling: Kubrick moved his camera backwards, Laszlo Nemes guided it forwardly.
I know that João Pereira Coutinho liked the film and praised it in the Folha de São Paulo newspaper, but unfortunately, because I'm no longer a subscriber of the paper, I could not read the full critique by that brilliant intellectual - whose artistic taste, BTW is often very similar to mine.
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