PREPARATIONS TO BE TOGETHER FOR AN UNKNOWN PERIOD OF TIME (Felkészülés meghatározatlan ideig tartó együttlétre)
Greenwich Entertainment
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Lili Horvát
Writer: Lili Horvát
Cast: Natasa Stork, Viktor Bodó, Benett Vilmányi, Zsolt Nagy, Péter Tóth
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 1/7/21
Opens: January 22, 2021

Film Poster

We’ve all heard this. “Let’s do lunch some time.” “We’ve really got to get together.” “My wife and I want to have you over for dinner soon.” “Stay in touch.” People who take invitations like these seriously are likely to be called rubes by those of us who have enough experience in life to distrust them. What do you think would happen if you took the speaker up on such fake invites? Humiliation, probably, so we shrug off the come-on just as does the inviter. This reminds me of the New Yorker magazine cartoon showing an executive behind the desk on the phone, saying “How about never? Is never good for you?” But you’re not likely to hear that from polite folks.

Now here’s a film that shows what happens to a woman who takes a man’s invitation seriously. She’s a neurosurgeon no less, who in Jersey meets a man in the same field. János Drexler (Viktor Bodó) is from Budapest at an American medical conference. The woman is ethnically Hungarian too. We don’t see what happens in New Jersey but apparently they agree to meet in Budapest in one month by the Liberty Bridge (and you’d better make sure of which bridge because Budapest has seventeen).

A month later, Márta Vizy (Natasa Stork) flies to Budapest to meet him, and later to take up a new job in one of the city’s hospitals. She has been stood up, and here comes a scene that should land this foreign language gem an award for Best Male Fantasy. There is nobody to greet her, so she faints dead away. The scene comes from the pen of director Lili Horvát, whose coming-of-age tale “The Wednesday Child” was her freshman, full-length film. Now she has a fleshed-out narrative that labels her a feminist, a female director with a female lead, notwithstanding the principal character’s anxieties when unable to connect to the first person (at age 40) who makes her feel “like this.”

Building on male fantasy, Márta, about to fly back to New Jersey but determined to connect with János, runs from the airport and takes a job at the hospital at which János does surgery. Never mind that János had later told her that he never laid eyes on her, which takes the film from frustrated romance into psychological mystery. What’s the truth? Did she imagine everything? Because if she did, the story is a cop-out, given that you can excuse all sorts of strange occurrences on a dream. But no, there is an explanation. Wait a while.

Now isn’t it just like a neurologist to think she has a brain ailment, leading her to have a few sessions with a psychiatrist. Is she impaired? She could always hang out with a fourth-year medical student who lusts after her, thankful that she successfully treated his father, but she’s not that desperate. We’ve got a mystery here, one destined to keep us glued to the end to get some answers. Will this mature film be tainted with a happy, Hollywood ending? Will Márta become institutionalized? Is her brief affair with him in her bare, shoddy apartment, imagination or one-night stand?

If we were not wallowing in this one-year-old pandemic, “Preparations To Be Together For An Unknown Period Of Time” could conceivably open in any theater that has room in its marquee to fit the title. Though this is marketed here for those Americans who have no problem reading subtitles, it could draw a larger audience. The plot moves along at a good clip, highlights the impressive talents of Natasa Stork as the blue-eyed, classy but lonely protagonist, has some good shots on Budapest streets by cinematographer Robert Mály, and serves well as this year’s answer to Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” In other words, this is not artsy-fartsy: hey, it’s not brain surgery.

95 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+


THE MOUNTAIN – movie review


Kino Lorber
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Rick Alverson
Screenwriter: Rick Alverson, Dustin Guy Defa, Colm O’Leary
Cast: Tye Sheridan, Jeff Goldblum, Hannah Gross, Denis Lavant, Udo Kier
Screened at: Park Ave, NYC, 7/22/19
Opens: July 26, 2019

The Mountain Movie Poster

If you enjoyed a highbrow feature like Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” a film that hones in on a young man who follows a surgeon around as though he were trying to be the doctor’s best friend, you might be looking forward to another ethereal drama, “The Mountain.” In this tale, a young man who never smiles follows a doctor around presumably because the older man performed a lobotomy on the kid’s mother. Given the status of Lanthimos and Rick Alverson as maverick directors, you figure you would enjoy “The Mountain,” but what you anticipated turns out to be a far more enigmatic, static, color-drained look at a strange decade in America in which women who were not as repressed as the rest of the population, women who had opinions of their own, were subject to pre-frontal lobotomies. If you saw “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” a solid, middlebrow look at a hospitalized man whose fellow inmates were so horrified by what happened to him after such surgery that they suffocated him. But don’t expect such a narrative to be present here.

Rick Alverson, whose “Entertainment” in 2015 is about a has-been comedian trying to revive his career in the Mojave Desert, is known in some circles as being anti-movie, even anti-pleasure. Those traits are visible here in a film that highlights a relationship between a despondent twenty-year old and a doctor who roams about the country performing lobotomies. Since Andy (Tye Sheridan) lost his mother, who is institutionalized, and since his stiff father Frederick (Udo Kier) died while teaching figure skating, Dr. Wallace Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum) befriends him, giving him a job (that could be make-work but looks needed) taking Polaroid pictures of women who are being lobotomized. Actually the term lobotomy is not mentioned, so Alverson trusts his sophisticated audience to put 2 and 2 together.

While lobotomies are said to be frequent as late as the 1950s, somehow Fiennes cannot find steady work and has to travel about the asylums of California (photographed largely in Washington State). The Polaroid pix are made into slides to show to the doctor’s colleagues. As a side hobby, the doc also administers electroshock. However the most catatonic person in the story is Andy, and he had not even had a lobotomy—yet.

The most memorable scene, one that might prompt some viewers to turn away in embarrassment, features Jack (Denis Lavant), who works as an alternative healer in hospitals but who is the craziest dude in the picture. Jack dances about the room giving spastic monologues in English, French and Franglich, subtitles provided. Jack authorizes a lobotomy for his daughter Susan (Hannah Gross), who like other women barely shows signs of rebellion, though in a moment of anguish. Suddenly Andy changes from his placid self into a roaring volcano.

What does it all mean? It could be a satiric look at lobotomies, but criticism of that horrid procedure is outdated. Maybe it’s a spoof of the 1950s, with those small-screen TV’s and dull entertainers, a prosperous era but one which produced and nurtured repressed people, especially women. Or maybe you don’t care, and shouldn’t.

106 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C-
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – C