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Red Psalm

Red Psalm
Film Format: 
Jansco, Miklos
Andrea Ajtony
András Ambrus
Lajos Balázsovits
Film Reviews: 

Red Psalm (1971), Miklos Jancso's dazzling, open-air revolutionary pageant, is a highly sensual communist musical that employs occasional nudity as lyrically as the singing, dancing, and nature; within its own idioms it swings as well as wails. Set near the end of the 19th century, when a group of peasants have demanded basic rights from a landowner and soldiers arrive on horseback, Red Psalm is composed of less than 30 shots, each one an intricate choreography of panning camera, landscape, and clustered bodies. Jancso's awesome fusion of form with content and politics with poetry equals the exciting innovations of the French New Wave in the 60s and early 70s. The music, ranging from revolutionary folk songs to "Charlie Is My Darlin'," will keep playing in your head for days, and the colors are ravishing. The picture won Jancso a best director prize at Cannes, and it may well be the greatest Hungarian film of the 60s and 70s, summing up an entire strain in his work that lamentably has been forgotten here. (The Hungarian title means "And the People Still Ask," and one of Jancso's characteristic achievements is to create a striking continuum between past and present, a sense of immediacy about history that can be found in few other period films.) If you can see only one film in Facets Multimedia's Hungarian retrospective, you couldn't do much better than this. [Jonathan Rosenbaum]

Film Reviews: 

Known variously as 'Red Song' and 'People Still Ask' – a derivative of its original Hungarian title, 'Yet the People Must Keep Demanding,' itself borrowed from a Sándor Petöfi poem* – Red Psalm is inspired by the Hungarian revolutionary uprisings of the 19th century (including the Hungarian Revolution of 1948, which Petöfi was involved in), chronicles the revolt of a group of farm labourers, who, buoyed by the efforts of their comrades elsewhere in Hungary, attempt to stage their own bid for freedom. Drawing heavily on folklore and other popular songs (including 'La Marseillaise' and 'Johnny, My Darling', a.k.a 'Charlie, My Darling'), music is used as the primary mode of expression - dialogue is sparse, but meaningful. As a result, the film is often described as a musical, but that's rather reductive, and doesn't do it justice.  If you look hard enough, you'll see echoes of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal in its medieval pageantry; and Segei Eisenstein's Battleship Potempkin and Strike, in its style and representation of the workers as archetypes.[DVD Outsider]

Film Reviews: 

To read Raymond Durgnat's superb analyitical essay on Red Psalm click here:

Date Arrival: 
2 November 2011

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