A dark and dynamic ride through Budapest’s labyrinthine subway system, “Kontroll” stylishly careens through genres, thriller, drama, comedy, horror and romance, at the breakneck pace of a runaway train. Life has turned upside-down for brooding Bulcsú (Sándor Csányi), a ticket inspector who patrols the platforms and trains of the city’s underground network with a motley crew of colleagues. Bulcsú has forged a series of ‘relationships’ with other long-term denizens of this neon-lit world; the serial fare-dodger, the shadowy serial-killer, the veteran whose seen it all before, and the mysterious, beautiful woman who rides the rails in a bear suit. The most successful Hungarian film of 2003 and selected for the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival, Kontroll”, with its echoes of “Run Lola Run”, is a fascinating tour of an unseen world and an atmospheric, pulsating search for redemption.
2003 – Certificate: 15 – Hungarian Film
Rating Details: Strong language and violence
8.0 out of 10
Today I’m being angry about dry pasta. Dry pasta is a total rip-off. By which I mean the price charged for some types is a blatant attempt to feed the insecurity, snobbishness and stupidity of a significant percentage of the population. Normally I buy Ocado (own brand) Fusilli pasta at 113p / kg. But on a whim, last time I did my ‘big shopping’ I also bought a bag of Giuseppe Cocco Fusilli Pasta at 598p / kg, to find out what’s so good about it. That’s over 5 times more expensive! The latter comes in a smaller bag and has fancy Italian writing all over the packet (that could be telling me to go fuck myself for all I know), but beyond that it isn’t any different. It looks and tastes just like the cheap stuff. People are soft in the head if they’re stupid enough to buy the expensive version and think it’s superior in some way. Listen up. It’s exactly the same! Whether you like it or not, it’s only bought by the dull-witted and easy led, who actually believe it’s better; or food snobs who’re clearly lacking something in their lives that impressing themselves, their family and friends with grossly overpriced food, helps them to cover up. It you really want to impress your peers, buy the cheap stuff and donate the £60 or so you’ll save each year to charity. And while I’m on the subject, why is it that if you don’t buy spirals, spaghetti or tubes, the price of pasta also goes up hugely? Another rip-off! In fact, the only thing more ridiculous is bottled water. Being a Brit who lives on a small island, I’m genetically programmed to think just about everywhere else in Europe is basically like one place as it’s joined together, such as Italy and Hungary…
I went to Hungary once. (Yes, it’s hard to believe isn’t it?) I arrived with no local currency and had no idea what the exchange rate was, so for quite a while I based my estimate of prices on the bottle of overpriced Coke I bought from a vending machine at the bus station in Budapest. (Based on this, a bottle of lager was about half the price of Coke.) I never went on the underground there, which now having seen this film I’m quite glad about; the bus was quite traumatic enough. This movie follows the exploits of a scruffy team of five ticket inspectors on the Budapest subway. It starts with an introduction from someone claiming to be from the subway company, explaining why permission was given for the film to be made (entirely underground) and for the company to be depicted in the way it is. I’m not 100% sure if this was serious or just a clever bit of writing. The whole movie has a well developed script and provides plenty of nuanced observations and WTF moments. The subway environment provides a great atmospheric background too, as the action switches quickly between different genera and pacing. Ticket inspectors are depicted as being very low on the ‘food chain’ of careers, with questionable management, rivalry between teams and a general antagonism towards them from the travelling public. A dark comedy (with a bit of romance and horror thrown in), this is a pretty fun, mind-fuck film that uses its setting well. A great film. Enjoy.
Musically it’s not an especially interesting movie as there’s not a lot used, although its scarcity does give it an impact when it does appear.
The trailer’s pretty decent, but I couldn’t find a copy of it with subtitles anywhere on the Internet. There’s a copy on the DVD though.
Recommended for ticket inspectors, tourists, serial killers and fare dodgers.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? For most of this film the ticket inspectors are on the wrong end of abuse from passengers who haven’t got a ticket. In one incident, an especially annoying woman threatens to report one for groping her if he hassles her any more about not having a ticket. So the guy promptly grabs her boobs, much to her horror and embarrassment. Now I’m not condoning this in any way, but somehow she deserved it. Calling someone’s bluff is always badass, if you get away with it.
Listen up, this is important. I believe the Earth is about to be invaded and taken over by an evil alien, whose sole purpose is to enslave the entire human race and laugh in a really, really annoying way at our suffering. Proof? For a start, this film. The main male character in it is called Zorg. Is Zorg a common name in France? I doubt it. This film is clearly a message from the future sent back into the past, to warn us of the impending doom to come. No one really calls their son Zorg, do they? I hope not, because it’s the sort of name only megalomaniacs in 50’s pulp sci-fi and B-movies should have. Emperor Zorg; Zorg the Mighty; Lord Zorg, Ruler of the Flatulent Empire and 10,000 Worlds; that sort of thing. We never get to meet Zorg’s parents in this film, but honestly, what were they thinking? They must have been smoking something when they came up with that name. Then this evening I had my shopping delivered by someone called Zoltan. Again, another clear example of a Flash Gordon era baddie, who was obviously casing the joint and looking for weaknesses in the Earth’s defences. You shouldn’t allow the fact that he came not in a gigantic spaceship, but in the “cabbage van” (so the text from Ocado said), to deflect your attention. He even had a bit of an accent, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t of this Earth. These aliens, clever people, that’s why they’re ‘here’ and we’re not ‘there’.
1986 – Certificate: 18 – France
Rating Details: Strong scenes of sex and nudity and some strong violence
Clocking in at almost three hours (it was the Director’s Cut), this is a loooong, French, romantic movie that takes us on a trip with young couple Zorg and Betty. From painting beach houses, through to working in a pizza restaurant, writing books and selling pianos, it chronicles their relationship and the effect Betty’s (undefined) mental illness has on it. Having a friend with the latter, I found it intensely saddening at times. But I also enjoyed it in a rather Thomas Hardyish way, in the sense that I knew the relationship was probably doomed from the start and I was just waiting for it to crash and burn. Now having just compared it to a quintessentially English author, it’s actually a very French film. There’re plenty of examples of tasteful love-making (because the French are supposed to be good at that), as well as lots of ‘unconcerned nudity’ in it, most of it of the male variety it has to be said. It also had several somewhat bizarre and funny scenes of what you might consider to be almost slapstick comedy too. The ending is somewhat inexplicable as well, which seems to happen a lot in French films. Ultimately though, it’s a downer of a movie and after spending three hours with the characters, sharing virtually every aspect of their relationship with them, it’s hard not to be affected. I really felt sorry for them both. It’s a nice looking film too (and I’m not just talking about the main characters) and the mono soundtrack is actually pretty decent.
Recommended for those who are willing to invest an evening in lusting after Betty or Zorg.
1 cat, no decapitations or chainsaws. The cat, a lovely white one, appears in three scenes and has a pivotal role right at the end, including a bit of (dubbed) dialogue.
Top badass moment? Betty throwing a bucket of pink paint all over Zorg’s boss’s car. He was a serious asshole and quite frankly a load of paint on his car was the least he deserved. When you’re boyfriend’s being a wimp and not sticking up for himself, someone has to be badass about it. And let’s face it, who hasn’t thought of doing something like that to a crappy manager at one time or another?