Miklos Jancso: The Lord’s Lantern in Budapest

And then there’s this puzzler. Made in 1999 after a long break, this film sees Jancso and longtime writer Gyula Hernadi abandoning any indicators of their previous, consistent style. Most notably, there are no long takes in this film, making it nearly unrecognizable as a Jancso movie. Instead, we have 105 rather long minutes of sub-Beckett hijinks acted out by two evidently well-known Hungarian comedians (both were in Kontroll), interspersed with cameos from Jancso and Hernadi themselves. The movie doesn’t seem to go anywhere, though there are plenty of odd, deadpan jokes and oblique references to Hungarian history which were lost on me. (Odd that this movie’s slapstick travels less well than the art-house seriousness of Jancso’s earlier work.) Still, the general baseness of the dialogue between the two plays out as a constricted version of Bob and Ray, or perhaps more aptly Bouvard and Pecuchet.

Who knows? Jancso was pushing 80 when he made this, and such a drastic late-career shift is hard to figure. The cold hand of death? Senility? Boredom? Maybe I’ll have a better idea when I’m 80. But for now, I’m not rushing out to see the four sequels.

Andrew Horton has two articles, one on The Lord’s Lantern in Budapest and one on the fourth sequel, The Battle of Mohacs, which just happens to be about time travel.

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