Friday, April 26, 2019

László Nemes' SUNSET proves an enthrallingly odd follow-up to his Oscar-winner, Son of Saul

Just as his immersive and often very difficult to watch debut film, Son of Saul, thrust us into the Nazi extermination of the Jews, so, too, does László Nemes' second and new film, SUNSET, very nearly bury the viewer in the greed, sleaze, perversity, hypocrisy and violence that led us (along with some other things not covered here) into World War I.

Granted, Son of Saul spent all of its hour and 47 minutes in the middle of that Holocaust. Sunset puts us into WWI only for the final moments of its much lengthier two-hour-and-22-minute running time. The film's ending, however, is sudden and specific enough to make TrustMovies better understand what Mr. Nemes' major point appears to be.

The filmmaker, pictured at right, uses a similar point-of-view technique as in Son of Saul: He places his camera just in front of or right behind, sometimes to the right or left but always quite close to his protagonist. In Sunset's case, this would be a pretty but deadly serious young woman named Írisz Leiter, played with very nearly one single expression that manages to combine questioning and determination in a most unusual manner. The performer here is Juli Jakab, below and on poster, top) an actress/writer of note who was also featured in Son of Saul.

Ms Jakab's intensity, combined with her beauty and dedication to this unusual role helps keep us and the movie on track, despite its length and refusal to offer up a whole lot of typical exposition. Instead, Nemes seems to be saying to any remotely intelligent viewer who is at all familiar with history (That's what? Five per cent of America?), "OK, folk: Take what you know here, then watch, listen, and run with it."  And we do. Or I did, anyway, along with the approximately half of our critical establishment who approved of the movie.

The character Írisz appears at film's beginning, at a very chic and well-connected millinery shop, to which, we slowly learn, she shares a major bond. Yet she seems to know almost as little about her actual past and family than we do. Slowly, the movie lets Íris (and us) in on things.
They're not pretty.

The era -- 1910 and the time preceding WWI -- is aptly captured in sets, costumes and characterization, and eventually some (and only some) of the mystery of who and how is unveiled, as we come face to face (or via hear-say from not always reliables characters) everything from missing relatives to love and murder to sex trafficking, torture and plenty more violence.

Because so much of what we learn is only sidelong and suggested, some viewers may insist on something more substantial. They will be disappointed. For those willing to put the puzzle pieces together, making some connections on their own, Sunset should prove compelling, often quite beautifully filmed, and well-written, -acted and -directed enough to pass muster -- and then some.

What's missing here, for WWI history buffs, are the politics of the time and the people and companies who would profit most from the carnage. We get but a mere taste of any of this; instead we're treated to the uber entitlement of royalty and wealth, the huge disempowerment of women, and the violent reaction of folk who will be termed anarchists by some but who are in truth more like crazy, avenging angels. This offers plenty to chew on, of course, but it's not nearly the big picture.

From Sony Pictures Classics, Sunset, after opening in a number of major cities over the past few weeks, will hit South Florida today, Friday, April 26. In the Miami area, look for it at the AMC Aventura 24 and the Silverspot Downtown Miami; in Fort Lauderdale at the Classic Gateway; in Boca Raton at the Regal Shadowood 16 and Living Room Theaters, and at the Movies of Delray in Delray Beach. Now and over the weeks to come, it will play many more cities. Click here and then click on THEATERS to find the one closest to you.

No comments: