While we have dedicated much space on this blog to a new and flourishing Hungarian film industry, with such festival hits as White God, On Body and Soul, and The Citizen gaining international attention, not to mention two recent Oscars in Son of Saul and the short Sing, it is fair to say that all contemporary Hungarian film-makers owe a debt to the bellwether years of modern Hungarian cinema, dominated by voices like István Szabó, Miklós Jancsó, Márta Mészáros, and recently departed Károly Makk.
Makk died last week, having left indelible mark on Hungarian and international art-house cinema. Some of this is thanks to the liberalization of the local film industry during the difficult socialist era, giving local film-makers more freedom in subject matter and control over their product. While directing several less ambitious films, Makk had to wait for slow changes within the government apparatus to make his masterpiece, simply titled (in English translation) Love, a film that would garner him international accolades, including the jury prize at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival. Quoted in the Guardian, Makk said, “I asked every year for six years for permission to make it. The political elite finally gave in because it was part of a rejection of the Stalin years.” His follow-up offering, Cat’s Play, would be Hungary’s selection for the 1974 Oscars, as was his next film Another Way, though that film would be withdrawn on the insistence of the regime in then-Socialist Hungary.
Makk would go on to make English-language films that were internationally financed, including Lily in Love, staring Christopher Plummer and Maggie Smith, and The Gambler, an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s novel, with Michael Gambon in the lead role.
Makk was born in 1925, and despite his father’s urging that he go into a practical trade like engineering, Makk joined the national film industry as an assistant, and worked his way through the ranks until he began directing, his first feature being Liliomfi in 1954. Of the many films he made, five would be nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
Károly Makk’s films explored how average people maintain their humanity in the face of oppression, something the director had firsthand experience in. Though he has passed, his legacy lives on in the vital and human stories we are seeing coming out of the Hungarian cinema of today.
Source: the Guardian
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