My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.

This week focuses on two films by Hungarian filmmaker Márta Mészáros and one film about her.


BLOW-BALL (1965)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I didn’t have much time to study Hungarian cinema while I was making THE PENDRAGON CYCLE but after spending more than six months in the country, I want to delve more into their film history.

It was fascinating to see Budapest, the city I’ve spent so much time in, shown in its 1960s form throughout this day-in-the-life study of a child. The director takes us in the world of the boy as he travels between his divorced mother and father, entering into his internal space while examining his surroundings much like THE 400 BLOWS. The direct address looks at camera are a powerful touch. I look forward to discovering more of this filmmaker’s work and to learn more about her peers making movies throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s in Hungary.



Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

After her strong short film BLOW-BALL, I was definitely curious to see more of what Hungarian filmmaker Márta Mészáros created. ADOPTION is a similar film, yet as a feature has more time to explore the daily lives of her characters.

It’s a compelling depiction of women, complex and true, showing them as they are unlike what the filmmaker wants them to be (a mistake that happens all too often). The two females at the center of the story are played in the most naturalistic way, convincing us that they are not actresses but humans plucked off the street or that Márta observed their own personal lives. In that way, ADOPTION feels reminiscent of Italian neo-realism, mixed with Bergman’s contemplative, psychological cinema. At the same time, it feels very Hungarian: cold, distant, yet full of hidden meaning.

I will admit that I did not emotionally connect with this movie, though I admire it from afar. Still, I am interested in seeing more of Márta’s movies, especially the DIARY trilogy.

Watched on Criterion Channel



Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

This documentary portrait of the Hungarian filmmaker is not only an insightful look at her working process but also a perceptive investigation of men and women.

What I like about Marta’s work so far (I’ve only seen a short and a feature) is that she presents women and men in a realistic way, making “feminist” films but without an agenda. Too many of those films push a perspective of the female gender as the filmmaker wants women to be rather than how they actually are. Marta’s statements in this “portrait” confirm a philosophy of showing the world and relationships in a matter of fact way. Her observations about how men and women work differently in film also fascinate me; she says that a man “creates” a film whereas a woman “makes” it… I’ll be chewing on that one for a while.

PORTRAIT is full of all kinds of little nuggets of insight and information like that. In one interview, her ex-husband says that Marta needs a failure as a filmmaker to improve her craft, that she’s had too many successes and that it’s bad for her creative evolution. That’s a philosophy I agree with and I’m very curious as I continue to explore her filmography to see if he was right.

Watched on Criterion Channel