Martin Scorsese on Miklós Jancsó

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Martin Scorsese shared some thoughts about Miklós Jancsó in honor of Kino Lorber's release of six films by the Hungarian master, restored in 4K from their original camera negatives by the National Film Institute Hungary – Film Archive. These films are now playing at the Metrograph in New York before touring select cities and coming to Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD in April 2022.

In the 1960s, there were artistic revolutions and revelations exploding all around the world—between the movies we were seeing and the music we were listening to, it was like living at the heart of a supernova. At this point, the connection to that moment is fading. Fewer and fewer people know the films or the people who made them, even people like Fellini and Bergman and Truffaut. Or Miklós Jancsó, the Hungarian master.

One of the major preoccupations of that era was the need to make a genuinely political cinema. What should a political film cinema be? Should it look to past, to the great Soviet films? Or to the plays and writings of Bertolt Brecht? Should it be rousing and melodramatic, or icy and analytical? Was Jean-Luc Godard the answer? Alain Resnais? Chris Marker? Of course there was no definitive answer. There were only individual responses, from individual artists.

Jancsó burst into our consciousness with The Round-Up, which dealt with the Hapsburg government clampdown on the remaining members of a band of revolutionary guerillas jailed in a prison camp on the Hungarian steppe. Shot in stunning black and white Scope, the picture seemed to encompass every possible approach to political cinema and then to transcend them all. It was virtuosic, a tour de force of choreography for the camera. It was precise in its portrayal of raw power, but it was also emotionally gripping. The setting and the story were severe but the picture was thrilling—a grand, tragic vision that left us feeling uplifted. The Round-Up, followed by Jancsó’s The Red and the White and Red Psalm and Winter Wind, made us all want to go home and get to work.

At long last, The Round-Up has been restored, along with 5 other Jancsó pictures. Kino Lorber is presenting the package, and it will be seen in repertory cinemas around the country before it’s available at home. If the films scheduled to show near you, then don’t miss them. Because I’m telling you now: this is essential viewing.

– Martin Scorsese, New York, Jan 2022