“Who Will Sing Folk Songs?”: The Film Musical in Nine Variations
Screening Dates
  • June 10 (Monday) 6:30
  • June 30 (Sunday) 8:35
New Restoration

Red Psalm, like all great films, raises more questions than it answers … Strange as it may seem, Red Psalm [also] qualifies as a musical, and might encourage a (long overdue) revision of concepts of that genre.”

Raymond Durgnat, Rouge

Miklos Jancsó won Best Director honours at Cannes for Red Psalm, one of his pinnacle achievements. The film recounts, in fervid, balletic, and bloody fashion, a farm workers’ rebellion on a large Hungarian estate in the late 19th century. Jancsó’s incessantly moving camera captures the drama with kinetic and metaphoric force over a mere 28 shots, each demonstrating the director’s bold, rhythmic command of the expressive extended take. The workers’ endurance comes not from any plans or heroes we bear witness to, but rather the group’s song-accompanied movement on what becomes a contested battlefield—a constantly reshaping circle in contrast to the arrival of perpendicular marching lines. Selectively mic’d, and cyclically structured (with deaths and revivals and everything in between), Red Psalms formal approach is married to its politics; if a musical is made of anything, Jancsó suggests, it is first built out of people’s voices.

In Hungarian with English subtitles

A dazzling open-air revolutionary pageant … As the Hungarian title suggests, one of Jancsó’s characteristic achievements is to create a striking continuum between past and present—a sense of immediacy about history that can be found in few other period films.”

Jonathan Rosenbaum