Daisoujou’s review published on Letterboxd:
Film #12 that was recommended to me -- feel free to add to the list!
I wrote a "review" for this previously that was just my musing on the probable animal cruelty in filming Satantango and how it should affect my feelings about the film itself. It generated some pretty good discussion and while I do still think that it is terrible if the cat was truly handled anywhere near the way I think it was, I generally find myself agreeing with the idea of attempting to judge this film separately from that. So, that being said, here are my actual thoughts on Satantango as a film.
In many ways, this film is absolutely spectacular. The slow moving camera, the lovely music, the droning atmosphere created by bells, some of the best rain ever on film, it all sets such a strong mood. The intense black and white contrast is some of the best I've ever seen and practically every scene has interesting framing. This is such an incredible audiovisual experience and easily some of the best cinematography I've ever seen, and the use of texture rivals Tarkovsky. The acting must be commended as well -- it never falters from anyone, which is amazing when considering how long most of the takes are. There are so many individual moments that are right up there with the best I've ever seen in a film; I particularly loved the way the drunken dancing was filmed, and Irimiás and Patrina walking through the intense wind.
But I still find myself removing a star from a film that has several qualities of an absolute masterpiece. The reasoning for this is mainly that it's just too long. It feels pointless to even talk about the 7 hour film being a little on the long side, but unlike a lot of people here, I really did feel that runtime. The slowness is largely great; I'm definitely not here to say that it was a waste of time to spend 15 minutes on dancing or anything. If anything it's the actual plot that lets me down a little, feeling somewhat slight and vague as a whole. Maybe it's just that no matter how well it set the mood I was never fully engrossed in the actual events. I appreciate all the themes about greed, selfishness, powerlessness, and the ways that people stuck together in unfortunate situations end up exploiting and taking it out on each other. I just was more than ready to be finished, no matter how good the film was.
I'm really looking forward to checking out Béla Tarr films that are a little shorter.