Red Psalm (Miklós Jancsó / Hungary, 1972):
(Még kér a Nép; The People Still Talk)

The Revolution, visualized by Miklós Jancsó as political credo, pagan pageant, busy day at the fair. The vast Hungarian flatlands during the 1890s provide the stage, the camera starts out close (brown doves pressed to a maiden's bosom) then keeps its distance, constantly tracking, panning, tilting as the fable unfurls in monumental, unbroken takes. "La Marseillaise" is appropriated, violence is contemplated as an inescapable response to tyranny: The rich Count sends a bailiff to buy off the rebellious workers in his property, the peasants refuse his drink and set fire to his bribe of sacks of wheat, the bailiff is himself bagged and fed to the pyre as the revolutionaries form a daisy-chain around it. The infantry rides into the conflict, and their grey uniforms add to Jancsó's swirling canvases, in which the river literally runs red and the cobalt blues of a female organizer's frock and babushka might be derived from one of Fred Astaire's suits in The Band Wagon. Indeed, the MGM-musical surrealism is easily recognizable (Jancsó's concentric circles offer a thorough study of Sidney's Annie Get Your Gun, picked up by Bertolucci in 1900), but Dovzhenko is the main cornerstone for the movie's many deaths and rebirths, falls and rises, waffling troubadours and slogging trains and talismanic close-ups of loaves of bread. Cycles of oppression and resistance spin around the maypole, and, achieving the culmination of his style, Jancsó trades realism for poetic mysticism, the faith of insurrection -- a character is shot dead merely to be revived a moment later by the kiss of a maiden, whose own wound has flowered into a crimson cockade. (Venus and Adonis: "An image like thyself, all stain'd with gore.") A fertility festival gliding from ecstatic to grave and back, it's a steady progress towards a sublime spiritual victory. A film about freedom, aesthetically and politically, and a free film. Cinematography by János Kende. With József Madaras, Tibor Orbán, Tibor Molnár, Jácint Juhász, Gyöngyi Bürös, and Andrea Drahota.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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