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+


SOROS – movie review

Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Jesse Dylan
Writer: Jesse Dylan
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 11/16/20
Opens: November 20, 2020

Soros Poster

“No good deed goes unpunished.” In a more metaphoric vein, “The tallest blades of grass get mowed first.” Ironically enough, the more good you do for others, the more people will suspect you, wonder about your motives, become envious of you, finally to hate you enough to slam you on Twitter. In the case of Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros, who, if you go along with Jesse Dylan’s presentation about him thinking maybe Soros should be Time magazine’s Person of the Century, you may paradoxically see that he is the world’s most hated man. Judging by his censure all over the world, in those countries that he has helped the most, you don’t wonder that there was an assassination attempt on his life, something that is not covered in this film because enough poison has been splashed his way to make you guess at that.

According to the Wikipedia article, Soros is the target of conspiracy theories: that he was behind the 2017 Women’s March, the fact-checking website Snopes, gun-control activism, protests against the nomination of Justice Kavanaugh. Conspiracy theories the likes of which appear in Q-anon these days either subliminally or right out in public note that Soros is Jewish. So you wonder why Soros has not yet been accused of causing the California wildfires, the tidal waves in Thailand, and if there is such a thing these days, the poisoning of wells throughout the world. Another theory is that Soros was a Nazi collaborator who turned in other Jews and stole their property. Never mind that he was a thirteen-year-old child at the time who had to hide from the Nazi government.

It’s almost understandable that dictators like Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan would blame Soros for financing terrorists, but hey, you don’t expect Americans living in our open society to hold conspiracy theories? They sure do, and the failure of our educational system to inform people about the dangers of people like our president who are undermining our democracy lies heavy on us today.

Director Jesse Dylan’s many videos came out of Wondros, a production company that tells the stories of the most innovative organizations and individuals. He wants to educate us about how innovative individuals are helping to change the world, and makes clear that Soros is resented by right-wingers not only because he is Jewish but because he has made billions. Envy has often been the emotion that triggers hatred of others in much the way that some people conversely hate those they consider below them as well. We see from the archival spots that pop up during the chats by talking heads that he has traveled to problem spots around the world, using his money to effect change, which in itself seems to have caused people to think, “Who is this outsider to tell us how to treat our people?” He opposed apartheid in South Africa. It’s needless to say who would hate him for that.

He is incensed by the genocide against Rohingyas in Myanmar, bringing that country’s government out of the woodwork to hate him, but at the same time Soros considered so-called human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi to be a hero when in fact she joined the haters by calling the Rohingyas terrorists.. He spoke out against the genocide of Bosnians by Serbs under the leadership of Milosevic.

Traveling back and forth from Soros’ childhood in Budapest to today’s ninety-year-old man, Dylan, son of the musician Bob Dylan, gives us a picture of the embattled giant and presumptive savior of the world. I would expect right-wingers and anti-Semites to think (why not?) that this is a vanity project financed by the title character.

The doc is vivid enough without the help of tinkling piano music in the soundtrack, as if the makers of the film worry about our intelligence so much that we would not know whom to cheer and whom to dislike. I think that most movies that are not thrillers should simply stop the nonsense of distracting our attention from the speakers with irrelevant noise.

88 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – C (music)
Overall – B


THE CITIZEN – movie review

THE CITIZEN (Az állampolgár)

ArtMattan Films
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Roland Vranik
Screenwriter:  Iván Szabó, Roland Vranik
Cast:  Máté Haumann, Tünde Szalontay, Tibor Gáspár, Cake-Baly Marcelo, Agnes Mahr
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 10/13/18
Opens: July 6, 2018

Why do poor people support Trump in such great numbers?  Perhaps to them, what’s more important than wages is their xenophobic view that the U.S. should shut its doors to immigrants and should not allow women to have what’s euphemistically known as reproductive rights.  In other words, keep the foreigners out and the fetuses in.  While the U.S. is not Hungary and Budapest is not Birmingham, Roland Vranik’s film “The Citizen,” filmed in location in Budapest, deals with the plight of one immigrant from Guinea-Bissau who fled to the Eastern Europe country to escape the unending violence in his own African state.

Vranik, whose “Transmission” in 2009 deals with withdrawal pains brought about by the failure of digital devices to work, cuts back on the surrealism this time, portraying the woes of a black man seeking citizenship in a country that has not been known to be friendly to folks fleeing their homelands for better economic conditions or political asylum.  You might expect Hungarians to be haters since Wilson (Cake-Baly Marcelo) is not only different from most of them in appearance and culture, but the evidence on display supports the view that he is welcomed into the new land, getting a job as a security guard and even awarded a week at a spa for being employee of the year.  There is but one isolated case of a man’s calling him with the n-word and one seemingly impossible hurdle to jump when he fails a 3-panel query on Hungarian culture and is therefore turned down for citizenship.  Yet the panel is open to reversing itself and granting him the papers.  He is accepted in his Budapest neighborhood as well.

In fact Mari (Agnes Mahr) tutors him for the test, giving him tours of the city museums and monuments and correcting his surprisingly good Hungarian.  Her bond with the man turns romantic.  She leaves her husband and moves in with him not realizing that he already has a roommate—another asylum speaker, Shirin (Arghavan Shekari), who has fled from Iran and needs to find a local to marry her on paper so she can claim citizenship.

Because of the outstanding performances by the leads and the realistic look at a menage-a-trois (Mari, Shirin and Wilson), this is a film that could well be looked at during awards season, competing for best foreign language picture.  An American audience especially can relate to the story given the reactionary policies of the White House, particularly the hassles that the Republican party has been setting up to deny many eligible people the right to vote.  This spiritually fulfilling and highly entertaining drama, filled with moments of humor and a what-will-happen-next suspense should not be missed.

In Hungarian with English subtitles.

109 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

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

1945 – movie review

  • 1945

    Menemsha Films
    Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, 411 Celeb
    Grade: B+
    Director:  Ference Török
    Written by: Ference Török. Gábor T. Szántó adapted from Szántó’s short story “Homecoming”
    Cast:  Péter Rudolf, Bence Tasnádi, Tamás Szabó Kimmel, Dóra Sztarenki, Ági Szirtes, József Szarvas, Eszter Nagy-Kálózy, Iván Angelus, Marcell Nagy, Miklós B. Szekely, Gyorgy Somhegyi
    Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 10/10/17
    Opens: November 1, 2017
    1945 Poster
    When two Orthodox Jews, Sámuel Hermann (Iván Angelus) and his son Sámuel Hermann fia (Marcell Nagy) walk into a Hungarian village in 1945, people everywhere stare at them, wondering whether these two are the Jews whose pharmacy was taken over by Christians István (Péter Rudulf) and son Árpád (Bence Tasnádi) and whose comfortable home was commandeerd by Bandi (József Szarvas) and his wife Kustár Andrásné, who have kept the menorah and Jewish Art.  While some residents might not know the recent history of the village and look upon the two visitors as simply strange intruders, others had more materialistic worries in mind.  European history notes that when Nazis removed Jews from cities and villages and sent them to the camps, their property was not put into storage, but was transferred to Christians, some of whom feared their status as legal owners would come up short when the original deeds were produced.  This theft of Jewish property became one of the reasons that Jews returning form the camps to Poland, for example, led to the execution of some hapless survivors just after the conclusion of World War 2.

    “1945,” filmed by Elemér Ragályi in black-and-white with a sad musical score by Tibor Szemzö, comes across as a faithful recreation of a peasant community, in this case with a whorish young woman Kisrózxsi (Dóra Sztarenki) who enjoys a conjugal visit with her former fiancé Jancsi (Tamás Szabó Kimmer) on the very day she is to marry Árpád, the pharmacy manager.  In fact some residents actually feel remorse, in one case overwhelming, by Bandi, the town drunk, who had years ago ratted out the Jews to the Nazis.

    While the overriding theme involves the various feelings that townspeople have toward two they consider interlopers from another world, director Ferenc Török indulges in a terrifically nuanced look at what could be a typical Eastern European village from another time.  The tensions felt by the residents are in many ways not unlike those that anxiety-filled urban people must contend with—envy, resentment of those they consider better in some ways, though occasionally even some friendliness.  Bandi—who orders brandy by the bottle in part because he’s the town drunk but in this case to cover up his remorse at cooperating with the Nazis—might be almost as willing as the young pharmacy manager to permit some justice by giving the returning Jews the property that is legally theirs.  Some mystery is provided not only to the villagers but to us in the theater audience about the wooden crate that the visitors are transporting to the site of their previous home.  The rumor is that they are carrying perfume and creams to restock the pharmacy, the very store that convinces pretty Kisrózsi to abandon her muscular boyfriend for the life of a merchant, which she would acquire through marrying the schlubby son of the town clerk and magistrate.

    Director Török is well known in Hungarian film circles, though you might not guess he would direct a serious film like this given his 2001 “Moscow Square,” about high school kids who don’t give a hoot about Hungarian politics as they are into parties, girls, and graduation.  With an adaptation of Gábor T. Szántó’s short story “Homecoming,” this latest venture is targeted to cinema buffs who do not require fast action but often prefer a meditative, thoughtful, deeply-felt story.  The film played at several international festivals and took a prestigious award at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

    In Hungarian with English subtitles.

    Unrated.  91 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
    Comments, readers?  Agree? Disagree? Why?