Tarr. I might be another watch of The Turin Horse and especially Satantango away from shooting Tarr up to my top 50 directors of all-time. According to the consensus, Satantango is the 103rd best film of all-time and I have it as a Must-See (top 5 of the year) film- quite a ways apart there. Obviously I adore Tarr and his bravura so we’ll see if that changes with another viewing. Clearly the weakness for Tarr for the purposes of this list is he is extremely unprolific and can’t even round out a top 5. Beyond the filmography he’s a “style-plus” director in every sense of what I’ve invented that term for and what it’s supposed to me. His films are consistently jaw-dropping visually—stunning to look at.

Best film:  Werckmeister Harmonies. It took a couple viewings for me and nearly a decade and a half for others but WH has emerged as one of the best films of the 00’s decade and I don’t think there’s much to debate about that.

Werckmeister Harmonies — the genius camera movement is hard to capture here- but wall-art photography is not

total archiveable films: 4

top 100 films: 1 (Werckmeister Harmonies)

top 500 films: 2 (Werckmeister Harmonies, Satantango)

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incredible monochrome photography here in Satantango

top 100 films of the decade: 3 (Werckmeister Harmonies, Satantango, The Turin Horse)

from The Turin Horse

most overrated: Satantango. I have it as his 3rd film and overall TSPDT has it as like the 3rd best film of the 1990’s. It’s dense and long (7.5 hours) but I need to give it another look. Certainly if this film is the caliber of Breaking the Waves or Goodfellas it dramatically changes how I would view Tarr.

most underrated: Nothing here- overall now Tarr is very well respected by critics—Satantango is #103 and at #363 and #418 respectively while both WH and Turin Horse are technically underrated—they’re tracking really well for 21st century films.

back to Satantango

gem I want to spotlight:  Damnation (1988) is the beginning of the Bela Tarr aesthetic we now associate with him (see below). I’ve seen 1985’s Almanac of the Fall and despite the RT score I don’t love it and it’s in color and has a ton of dialogue- unrecognizable Bela Tarr.

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the Bela Tarr aesthetic started here in Damnation
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the incredible opening in Damnation

stylistic innovations/traits:  Even the best of reviews for Tarr’s films with refer to them as glacial. His films are existential and somber and it’s hard to not think of Tarkovsky (specifically the first section of Stalker) when you watch Tarr’s work as well.  Tarr is one of the great movers of the camera—the traditional cinematography—in cinema history. His films are elaborately choreographed with long gorgeous tracking shots with dialogue dubbing. Tarr creates sort of a hypnotic dance with his actors and the camera. His style and content are perfectly married as his films carry a truly scary sense of doom, often times in sort of an otherworldly multi-layered labyrinth feel. I also pilfered this from TSPDT but Tarr’s ethos on style vs story is here “ I don’t care about stories. I never did. Every story is the same. We have no new stories. We’re just repeating the same ones. I really don’t think, when you do a movie that you have to think about the story. The film isn’t the story.”

pensive tracking shots let you enjoy the images– here again in Satantango

top 10

  1. Werckmeister Harmonies
  2. The Turin Horse
  3. Satantango
  4. Damnation

By year and grades

1988- Damnation R
1994- Satantango MS
2000- Werckmeister Harmonies MP
2011- The Turin Horse MP

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives