Three Short Films by Zoltán Huszárik
June at the Spectacle
Hungarian fatalist Zoltán Huszárik’s seductive masterpiece Szindbád unspools memories of lust and gluttony from the brain of a dying debauched man, tangled in a web of regret and exultation. A woman bending over, revealing enchanting red panties from behind would be a typical fever flash in Szindbád, but it happens to take place over a grave in As You Like It (1976), one of three shorts accompanying the lost gem at the Spectacle this month, all of which linger heavily on the notion of death.
Beyond a hot glimmer of ass, perhaps an eye-wink from the director, provocation arrives in the shorts via poetic moving images paired with whining off-key harmonic scores, or haunting hymns, all experientially enthralling, yet menacing and sinister. Gravestones are a-plenty in both As You Like It and Homage to Old Ladies (1971), as are black-clad processions, abrupt visions of war (hanging corpses, corpses on carts, bombs, burning flesh), fields of vigil candlelight, always looming shadows. What ignites Huszárik’s visual montages is the editing. Perhaps building from the off-kilter early Czech New Wave and the Polish Film School’s unexpected cuts and juxtapositions, Huszárik went a step further, his imagery unwinding as raw visual collage. Images pause, and then rapidly unfold. Stills linger, and then a series of stills spill like pulsating lacerations. At points the viewer seems to be looking through a deformed lens. Sans narration, this manic unprecedented cutting digs much deeper than words can convey.
The standout short here is Elégia (1965), a cacophonic visual embroidery that seamlessly—albeit jarringly, through an arc of nostalgia, fear, and death—leads us through centuries of man’s observation and employment of horses, from cave paintings to labor to races to circuses to relics. The portrait is grim, ghostly, and fatal. A still of a deeply cut ravine swerving through a green pasture, or a trodden muddy pathway, reveals itself as a wound on the earth, only because the next image is a branded horse looking back, not only at its helplessly inscribed body, but at the viewer, asking, “What the fuck are you doing to me?” The horses’ eyes are often paused when looking at the camera, astonished, afraid. Infused with beaming images of cracked pavement, night-lit trees, flocks of black birds, even a majestic white horse running as if in shock alone in a barn, the film peaks with a cantankerous drumming rage of death, echoing Franju’s unforgettable 1949 documentary Blood of Beasts, itself a portrait of man’s obsession with carnage. Giddy up.