Satantango

Satantango ★★★★★

[92]

An ugly, pessimistic behemoth, and while it'd be a lie to say the 450 minutes whizz by -- because they don't, and they're not supposed to -- I can confidently, if somewhat bewilderingly, note that I was captivated for nearly every single one of them. Tarr exhibits an aching patience and a shrewdly observational eye for the mundane and the hopeless in ways that not many other directors could even dream of -- even a master like Tarkovsky can occasionally confuse moments of belabored sophistication or philosophical symbolism for genuine profundity e.g. I find the shot of steady rain overflowing a ceramic tea cup or a speechless ten-minute drive down a highway from SOLARIS far more mesmerizing than the strenuously emblematic (and often celebrated) candle-carrying trek at the end of NOSTALGIA. While Tarr's scope is broad, his underlying sentiments are simple : a shot of cows grazing in a barren wasteland of muddy turf and stagnant rainwater is not meant to represent something "deeper;" rather we are asked to calmly study everything on its surface -- the things you begin to notice when given the time to absorb the surroundings on your own are astonishing. Houses lacquered in decay, fields absent of any foliage, people willing to risk their well-being for a refill of brandy : the collective state of desperation is unmistakable, and every lingering picture, sedate zoom, extended tracking shot and languid pan across another desolate pasture or a damp dirt road is working meticulously towards that culmination of entropy viz. the compounding feeling of moving forward while going nowhere. Impeccable sound design that savors miniscule things : the creek of old wooden floors, the resonant warble of liquor filling a glass, the crunch of moist gravel being traversed, the methodical purr of a (momentarily) pampered feline. That's not to say this is perfect : it's not, and there are several instances where Tarr threatens to cross the line between pensive and pandering -- but moreover, this is a labor of love whose strengths greatly outweigh any perceivable flaws. Something that assuredly requires appreciable phlegm and grit on the part of the viewer, but rewards such forbearance with a truly nonpareil experience.

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