What Do You Do When One of Cinema’s Greats Calls It Quits?


Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

It's a tricky thing to have a “complete” retrospective of a living filmmaker, what with the possibility that they may continue to write, direct or produce films. But at the 49th New York Film Festival, when Béla Tarr sadly announced “I am not a filmmaker anymore,” he made things a lot less complicated and created an opportunity to present his body of work in full. Film Society of Lincoln Center will be doing just that from February 3 — 8.

Hailed as visionary by the likes of Susan Sontag, Jim Jarmusch and Gus Van Sant, the films of Hungarian maestro Béla Tarr have long resisted the draw of consumer and corporate conventions, opting instead to explore reality with a formal construction of only his own standards. Sometimes lasting seven hours (Satantango), and typically marked by long continuous takes, prodigious tracking shots, sparse dialogue, and deliberate pacing, Tarr’s films have been polarizing audiences and critics since he made his debut at the age of 22, back in 1970. “Filmmaking is a kind of reaction to the world,” Tarr told Hammer to Nail. “You’re just telling people how you see the world, from your point of view of course.”

Leading up to the U.S. Theatrical Premiere of his latest, and last, film The Turin Horse, FIlm Society will screen all nine of Tarr’s other feature films, including his 1982 television adaptation of Macbeth. His early work consists of piercing, social-realist dramas focused on the desperate lives of the proletariat class (Family Nest, The Outsider, The Prefab People, Almanac of Autumn). In the early 1990s, Tarr then achieved auteur superstardom with his series of black-and-white, Communist-era allegories made in close partnership with novelist László Krasznahorkai (Damnation, Satantango, Werckmeister Harmonies). Each of the later films (The Man From London, The Turin Horse) is marked by Tarr’s celebrated use of long, elaborately choreographed tracking shots in which camera and actors seem locked in a hypnotic dance—ravishing cinema that demands to be seen on the big screen.

"The Last Modernist: The Complete Works of Béla Tarr" opens Friday and runs through February 8. Tickets start at $8 for members for most films, and a four-film package starts at just $28 for members!

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