josh’s review published on Letterboxd:
“I am in a state of deep emotion. As you can imagine, I am totally confused. I am bewildered and shocked.”
I. Cows, Cinema, and Coffee
Satantango. Darkness fills the frame. Cows enter. Grazing, lulling, walking as if in a daze. About a minute in, I realize that this isn’t cutting. Time to focus. That cow looks a little sad, but then don’t they all. It’s a haunting, ethereal feeling- looking at cows in this context. Why cows? It doesn’t matter. Focus. Take a breath. These are beautiful cows. This town is beautiful, in its own drab way. Mud and poverty haven’t looked this gorgeous since I saw the Turin Horse. It’s a reframing of beauty. It’s a- oh. That was the cut. Tune in. Don’t lose focus. How far are we in? Oh God, it’s been eight minutes. Okay, deep breath. What time is it? Shit, I’m not going to finish this until 4:00 in the morning. I’ve got to get some coffee. I’ll pause it really quick. Every minute I’m not watching this is another minute I have to watch it later. Don’t think about that now, get the coffee. Who is this man? He reminds me of Orson Welles- a staggering presence over cinema through which we may more easily understand the character of the Doctor. This is a long shot. This is cinema. I’ll sip my coffee. I wonder where those cows went.
II. A run-on sentence turns into a marathon
An adaptation of László Krasznahorkai’s novel of the same name, Satantango is confronted with a difficult question of how to properly adapt Krasznahorakai’s style of writing. The book acts as a run-on sentence. Each word flowing into the next, with no room for one to catch their breath between paragraphs as pages blend together into a cacophonous droning of letters, coated in misery and repetition. How does one adapt a run-on sentence? Tarr chose to make his movie a marathon. 459 minutes, composed of 150 shots. Each lasting an average of over two minutes. This accomplishes the same effect as the book’s cramped pages. There is no cut for relief, instead the audience is left to ingest every part of a frame. Shots linger, staying with one even after they have ended. Minutes turn into hours, and hours into minutes as one is hypnotized by the rhythm (or lack of rhythm) to the spectacle before their eyes. Utterly intoxicating, I find myself lost in this world so often I find myself creating patterns while watching. It takes a while to build up stamina, but once one gets to the second part there is a sense that this is possible to watch. Just keep up with the shots. Each hour passes quicker than the last, and before you know it you are at the finish line- only to realize that you have three hours left. Don’t think about that now, get the coffee. Let’s finish this marathon.
III. Pete and Repeat are sitting on a fence-
Estike peers into the bar. Drunken dancing, a parade of fools weary from the world join together in ramblings that might be considered songs if properly intoxicated. It’s cold out here. A man oafishly balances bread on his head and waltzes about. There’s shouting, and Estike retreats from the window. How could a town not take notice of this child? Estike sees a man and asks him for help. He reminds me of Orson Welles. Get away! I’ve seen this before. This is the Doctor- We are in the bar. Miserable faces join together to celebrate before the arrival of Irimiás. Though not all look forward to his return, all are eager to see what he brings. Be merry, drink, eat, dance. A relief as we see for once a town comes together in a sort or joyful reunion. Dance, what a wonderful dance. A man balances bread on his head, an amusing sight that I can’t help to gravitate towards. Take it all in- this is the last supper. A reframing of the narrative. I’ve seen this before. Wait, in the window, that’s- What time is it? Shit, I’m not going to finish this until 4:00 in the morning. I’ve got to get some coffee. I’ll pause it really quick. Every minute I’m not watching this is another minute I have to watch it later. Don’t think about that now, get the coffee. Who is this man? He reminds me of Orson Welles- a staggering presence over cinema through which we may more easily understand the character of the Doctor. I’ve seen this before. This is a long shot. This is cinema. I’ll sip my coffee. Darkness fills the frame. Satantango.