Friday, July 31, 2009


Istvan Szabo, 1999 (8.2*)
This is an overlooked and underrated historical epic, a multi-generational family history from master Hungarian director, Istvan Szabo (Mephisto, 1981; Being Julia, 2004). Even though three hours long, it seems appropriate, like the Godfather films, and never really feels too long, but the necessary length to tell its story properly.

This is a realistic yet captivating drama about one Jewish-Hungarian family that begins in the country, ends up in the city, and seems to experience the political ebb and flow of the changes in history during the 20th century. Ralph Fiennes, in his most demanding role, is perfect as the grandfather (a brewer who made the family herbal tonic, called "Sunshine" after the family name of Sonnenschein), the father (who became a judge), and the grandson. All three are complex, human, kind, thoughtful, and ultimately tragic characters as they are victims of their bigoted times, and living in the wrong part of the world to be Jewish, during two world wars and a great depression, and numerous political regimes: a monarchy, socialism, democracy, military autocracy, and Soviet communism.

This ranks up there with great holocaust family stories, such as De Sica's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (anti-semitism), and Bertolucci's The Conformist (anti-intellectual, anti-liberalism), as well as Szabo's own masterpiece, Mephisto, about a German actor conforming to the Nazi regime in order to continue his stage acting in his own language.


Andrew K. August 1, 2009 at 6:55 PM  

I guess I should check this out. I am a fan of Ralph .

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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