Péter Sneé

The Award of Success

Péter Tímár: Dollybirds

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As is customary for films directed by Péter Tímár, Dollybirds, a film awarded with a joined first prize at the 28th Hungarian Film Week, evokes mixed feelings. The film could be a touching satire, yet it is not. It almost succeeded in authentically conjuring up an era, i.e. our inglorious past, the world of the Eastern Bloc in the sixties. It almost succeeded in getting close to our selves then, to a generation of strictly guarded young people wishing themselves away in hopeless desperation, yet that tiny bit which could have raised this film above the ordinary flow of time and turned it into an unforgettable experience is not there. In vain is Tamás Cseh's memorable entry, Natália Nagy's ravishing babbling, no explanation offers itself, and we are tormented with a row of unanswered questions. The first of these - i.e. can the film-makers hold out to the end - lurks around the minds of the more anxious ones in the audience as early as during screening. Satirical works made up of gags are large consumers, literally devouring up ideas, and if inspiration only lapses for the flash of an eye the film immediately “sits down" and tension drops. Film-makers can only afford to take a new breath if they with skilful dramaturgy manage to persuade viewers about their entitlement to a bit of relaxation, i.e. they interrupt more whirling scenes with slower emotional ones, calculating meticulously the expected effect and consequence of each of the settings.

Dollybirds sets out with such sweeping motion and is in such excess of ideas that it would suffice for ten comedies, yet its rhythm later slows down - not perhaps as a result of an absence of inventiveness but because of repetitions. Sound-effects and stop-tricks extinguish each other and the longer one watches the film the less one finds its duration justified. Seeing a large number of the clips one even feels uncomfortable : why have these been placed side by side with such bravura pieces as I Am a Little Blue Today? The unevenness of quality is painful, and one would have reason to complain about a drop in tension even if solutions were of the same quality, not to mention the mixed supply encountered in the second part. Distribution undoubtedly locks up films within certain boundaries of time, and our movie theatres insist on a duration of approximately one and a half hours, yet the question must be asked: should one succumb to their pressure?

One's second observation is also made during the screening, amidst a number of threatening distortions of taste. Although the space given to camp is fairly large, and the stringency of criticism is much tempered by its existence. But only if it relates to trashes within its own category. If its inclinations are for elsewhere, it may perhaps serve as a short indication, which on the other hand derails the film, the grotesque charm of which is ensured exactly by its ghostly likeness to the depicted age. Where everything, down to the last cigarette-stub, is like it used to be in one's own, grotesque adolescent years, the transvestite show is, to say the least, bizarre. The imitation leather Stetson of the fiduciary discharged from the State Security Authority and the flat, black pocket lamp of the police-woman simply does not fit in with such anachronistic inserts.

One's third observation comes later on. As the last sounds of laughter die out and one steps out to the street again, the remaining smiles vanish from one's face, and as bitterness outside is soaked up like by a sponge, the question of why one has only been snickering rather than being deeply moved by the returning vision of one's youth is immediately there. Péter Tímár doggedly insist that he does not care for politics, that his goal was not making a pamphlet but making us laugh. He is obviously trying to escape the pressures of the day, yet would it be possible to look back upon that age without furious passions or indignation, and to remember its parasites without complaints and with undisturbed joyfulness? János Gálvölgyi's Uncle Simon is proof that it is not a possibility, thus in addition to calling the typical characters of the age to life, something else should also required in order to really capture the atmosphere of the era. The ruling mechanism of power should also be portrayed, and not even a magician could find anything cute or entertaining in that.

Here, comedy encounters the boundaries of its own genre, and one either leaves these boundaries behind or admits that the situation does not lend itself to liberating laughter. Surrounded by a revelry of cabaret-jokes, the round-off is shy and conceals itself in a way that renders it almost weightless. The heroes of the “What Can You Do“ contest song, hoping for a journey to the West, realise that they have yet again been deceived and that the winners of the contest have already been selected prior to the final. As if one would be following the story of a tendering procedure today, yet somehow courage is lacking for the true unfolding of this latent tragedy. Blinding laughter is not offset by the darker colours of pain and fear, which makes every effect-element of this film perform below its true potential, and neither do these elements together make the film surpass the level of a funny, easily palatable output of film industry, for all its potential to become one of the “must sees" of Hungarian film. That which had been said in Whistling Cobble Stones by Gyula Gazdag about the closing of our sixties could well have been said by Dollybirds about the outset of the same era.

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