The bar’s so low it doesn’t exactly speak volumes when I say now—of all times, for some reason—is a banner moment for spotlighting Hungarian cinema. As Kino’s fantastic Miklós Jancsó retrospective starts this weekend, Janus has unveiled the trailer for their no-less-fantastic series on Márta Mészáros, a director whose name has perhaps never come up in my years occupying cinephile circles. If film history is a narrow, unforgiving thing, so often at mercy of what’s readily available in acceptable condition, this goes beyond restoration—it constitutes something more like rescue.
And so just the trailer for this series, which runs at Film at Lincoln Center from January 21 to January 26, is a revelation: none of this sparks familiarity, even Isabelle Huppert—star of Mészáros’s The Heiresses—constituting a surprise. In conjunction with Adoption arriving on Criterion in March and an inevitable release of more restorations, this already seems one of 2022’s major cinematic happenings.
Watch the preview below:
Márta Mészáros, a socialist and feminist filmmaker whose trailblazing, six-decade career broke barriers in cinema hierarchies, helped legitimize women’s artistic emancipation within the industry, alongside her contemporaries such as Agnès Varda and Věra Chytilová. Mészáros is perhaps best known for her Diary films from the 1980s and 1990s: a largely autobiographical trilogy based on the filmmaker’s life, with references to the tragic fates of her parents resulting from the Stalinist purges and her formative years as an orphan. Taken together, the films of Mészáros are masterful blends of the personal and the political, each one beautifully lensed, gently profound but never sentimental, and vividly attuned to the shifting social atmospheres of Hungary and its decades-long history of political unrest. This January, Film at Lincoln Center is pleased to present a selection of some of Mészáros’s most essential films, newly restored and on the big screen.
Highlights of the retrospective include The Girl, Mészáros’s debut feature and one of the first Hungarian films to be directed by a woman; Binding Sentiments, an examination of how patriarchy reigns despite economic status; the countercultural Don’t Cry, Pretty Girls!, an experimental work in the proto–music video style, reflecting the cultural sea change sweeping Europe during the late 1960s/early 1970s; the director’s fourth feature, Riddance, which conjures a sense of existential entrapment in depicting an ambitious university student’s affair with a young textile-factory worker; the Golden Bear–winning slice-of-life drama Adoption; Nine Months, a riveting examination of a defiant woman who asserts her autonomy in the face of a disapproving society; the multilayered look at female solidarity The Two of Them; The Heiresses, featuring a young Isabelle Huppert and set during the decadence of a prewar Europe being consumed by the onset of Nazism; and the “Diary” trilogy: NYFF22 selection and Cannes Grand Prix–winner Diary for My Children, introducing Juli (Zsuzsa Czinkóczi) as the director’s alter ego who returns to Hungary after losing her father in the Stalinist purges; Diary for My Lovers, which picks up the story of Juli as she defies the wishes of her Stalinist aunt by traveling to Moscow to become a filmmaker; and Diary for My Mother and Father, the heartrending final installment of the “Diary” series, tracing Juli’s journey through postwar Hungary.