The Man From London (A Londoni Férfi) (2007)
Critic Consensus: This dark, demanding film from art-house favorite Bela Tarr is by no means a typical crime procedural, but patient viewers will find much to admire.
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Critic Reviews for The Man From London (A Londoni Férfi)
The Man from London' lacks the grandiose 'cosmic' intimations of the director's past work, and though it contains many moments of sublime cinematic choreography, this is finally good Tarr, but not great Tarr.
The Man From London, directed by Bela Tarr, is an outrageously stylized, conceptually demanding film.
Tarr struggles to adapt to an outmoded genre and, in the end, produces his least personal work to date.
Feels like no other film that you've seen before. It's cerebral and lugubrious, yet simple as a fairy tale.
Demanding, and certainly not to everyone's taste (patience is needed), the film nevertheless has the power to thrill and amaze.
Other than its black-and-white photography, this is a nearly unwatchable movie.
Audience Reviews for The Man From London (A Londoni Férfi)
For a filmmaker who is so obsessed with aesthetic rigor, it is strange that Tárr doesn't seem to mind about all that horrible, fake-looking dubbing, yet still this is an evocative film (albeit repetitive and not so well finished) that makes beautiful use of strong black and white contrasts.
Man, when looking at this film's title, I just cannot help but think of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.", and it doesn't help that the upcoming adaptation of the TV series in question is directed by Guy Ritchie and features Henry Cavill and Hugh Grant. The show may have been about an American agent and a Georgian agent, but there is definitely more than just one man from London attached to that project, and that's about all there is when it comes to parallels between that project and this film, which is also a black-and-white mystery opus, but anything but even remotely as exciting as a Guy Ritchie film. Shoot, Steven Soderbergh could have gone through with the "U.N.C.L.E." project and the final product would have still been considerably less dull than this non-thriller, whose chills pretty much peak at having to look at Erika Bók's face. Well, at least this Béla Tarr is only a little under two-and-a-half hours, rather than seven hours and a quarter that I will never get back, and plus, if I can be ignorant American here, when someone actually talks, it's often in English, but then again, it's just as often in French. That's right, people, just in case I haven't been emphatic enough about how dry this film is, it is an art film about some British dude in France, and is by the Hungarian who did "Sátántangó", and it doesn't get too much more dry than that. Seriously, I was about to addressed how shocked I was to discover that it took Tarr until 2007 to get a film in Cannes Film Festival, but then I read about this film's reception at Cannes, and, man, even they said it was way too dry, and these are the same jerks who say that "Sátántangó" is one of the best films ever. Well, the general reception is still reasonably decent, and I guess that means that the critics haven't completely found their minds yet, because, as you can imagine, I agree with the handful of people who deem this film a disaster, yet can at least give some credit where credit is due. Most every one of Mihály Víg's scores for Béla Tarr films can be complimented to one extent or another, but they're all too often a bit more stylish than they probably should be, thus making it easier to appreciate Víg's efforts here, which are underused, of course, as well sometimes repetitiously misused and rather limited in the uniqueness that admittedly comes from the overstylization of Víg's other collaborations with Tarr, but has enough subtle dynamicity and tastefulness to be lovely by its own right, as well as complimentary to the film's tone. Really, both Víg's score for this film and Gábor ifj. Erdélyi's impeccable sound editing go into composing an audio style that is pretty impressively immersive, as well as not as emphatic about agonizing white noise that exacerbates firm dullness as it is in other films by Tarr, while Fred Kelemen's cinematography proves to be as impressive as it usually is in Tarr films. Granted, that mean that the black-and-white color palette of the film dilutes your appreciation for this film's visual style about as much as the punishingly overlong long takes that get so old after a while that it's unreal, but by deeming this film's visual style about as impressive as your usual Béla Tarr film, I also mean that Kelemen's cleverly sparse use of limited color and lighting not only captures the bleak, rather noirish tone of this minimalist art drama, but actually proves to be mighty eye-catching at times. The film sounds good and looks gorgeous, and that is just about what you can about every other Béla Tarr film which has little, if anything else going for it, so if this film excels in no other department, it's the stylistic department, while what substance there is tends to go anchored by the performances. I won't say that the performers make their characters all that engaging, because characterization is so problematically messy that the humans who conceptually drive this "drama" fall flat as beyond saving, which, of course, leaves our performers with only so much to work with, though not so little that you don't perk up a bit when the acting steps up about as much as it can, as the performers boast a certain naturalist atmosphere that allows them to embody their roles, and therefore make the heights in dramatic punch - particularly those of Tilda Swinton - all the more weighty. As with most every Béla Tarr film, there's little compliment in this hopelessly misguided embarrassment of a near-torturous attempt at artistry, but what strengths there are cannot be denied, and that's enough for the final product to be firmly secured from a drop into particularly low levels of contempt. Nevertheless, the point is that the film is bound to, or at least should, earn disdain, because as good as it may sound and look, and as decent as the tremendously underwritten performances may be, it's nearly unwatchable and decidedly uncompelling, largely because, as far as I can tell, it doesn't seem to care whether or not you're invested in these characters. Like I said, the performances are decent enough to earn a moderate degree of your investment, but not necessarily in the characters themselves, as the exposition is so paper-thin, and many of the characters' actions are so hard to relate to, that I found it impossible to connect with those who ostensibly drive substance, when there is substance that is. When I say that this film has something of a narrative, I mean it in the loosest of ways, as substance is just so undercooked, but make no mistake, this film does occasionally offer a tiny drop of substance and relatively traditional storytelling that emphasizes the possibilities within a practically obligatory premise concept, only to suddenly pull the rug out from underneath you and jar right back into the "narrative" style which dominates: overly artistic, almost abstract plotlessness, thus resulting in a glaring narrative inconsistency that would be more grating if the film's glimpses into traditional storytelling weren't so startlingly sparse, but emphasize the questionability of storytelling artistic which is impossible to disregard without the emphasis from "narrative" unevenness. With all of my complaints about inconsistency in narrative, this film is mostly plotless, being generally nothing more than a showcase of Béla Tarr's trademark: extended meditations of pure, almost abstract filler, anchored by long, long, long shots of nothing but nothing that grow numbing in their monotony after a while. This is one of those unconventionally structured art pieces that you simply have to see to believe, but man, I just cannot recommend that you suffer through the unreal level of aimlessness which drives most of this exhaustingly overlong, almost two-and-a-half-hour-long, just to see that a film can get this unfocused, because the monotonously misguided "artistry" of this film's "structure" is grating, and would perhaps be easier to swallow if all of this monotony wasn't made all the more grating by atmospheric momentum's being every bit as stale as the film's structural momentum. When substance does finally come into play, no matter how minimal it may be, thoughtful meditativeness actually breathes some life into a degree of effectiveness, but on the whole, all this film has to meditate upon is absolutely nothing, and it does so intensely, drying atmosphere dead and quieting things down to a numbing state, until you end up with a film whose bland moments are highlights in pacing, and whose tedious dullness reigns supreme. The film has glimpses of being something reasonably compelling, but more often than not, this grating mess is most everything that we've come to, or at least should expect from the artistically insane Béla Tarr, being a tediously paced, unfocused challenge to your tolerance, and that's enough for the final product to plummet into contempt without the insult to injury which goes added by Tarr's palpable and shameless sense of pride. I truly hate Tarr as a filmmaker, not just because he has an embarrassing track record when it comes to making watchable cinematic experiments, but because he has the nerve to demand your appreciation, even for something like this, and I'm sorry, but I cannot appreciate this misguided disaster of considerable proportions, for although the final product would have fallen even deeper into disaster were the weight of its shortcomings not challenged by tasteful areas in style and acting, Tarr's once again unrewarding efforts fall into disdain deep enough to in no way be worthy of the time it wastes every chance it gets. Overall, Mihály Vig's score has its lovely moments, and joins Gábor ifj. Erdélyi's impeccable sound editing in creating immersive moments, while lovely minimalist cinematography and decent performances further soften the blows of the final product's shortcomings, which are still overwhelming, because through scarce exposition, the occasional moment of narrative unevenness and near-consistent questionable artistic structuring, established through long stretches of monotonous meditations upon nothing but nothing, and made all that more glaring by a tediously cold atmosphere, touched up only by a frustrating air of self-righteousness, "The Man from London" crashes and burns as yet another utterly uncompelling, fiercely uncompelling and ultimately contemptible showcase of Béla Tarr's artistic misguidedness. 1.5/5 - Bad
With "The Man from London," Bela Tarr proves that he could even make watching paint dry interesting which surprisingly has little to do with the always fascinating Tilda Swinton being cast, as her role is so minor. In fact, the film is inspired by others including the beginning of "Touch of Evil" and its epic introductory shot. At the start of "The Man from London," Maloin(Miroslav Krobot), a night watchman, notices something suspicious on the job. On further inspection, it is a briefcase filled with slightly soggy English pounds. And then there is the Aki Kaurismaki angle with Maloin's dreary life where he severely disapproves of his daughter Henriette's(Erika Bok) job and clothing. But what's important is Tarr managing to keep events moving, even if it is at a glacial pace, perhaps mirroring that of the characters' existence.
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