November 20, 2014
Hungarian director, Cannes nominee Jancso dies at 92
Jancso was widely credited for instilling a unique quality into Hungarian cinema, such as long, unbroken shots and the intense examination of the relationship of ordinary men and those in power.
The prolific director, who has more than 30 feature films and nearly 50 shorter pieces to his name, had suffered from lung cancer for some time, his family told Hungarian news agency MTI.
He was already 37 years old when he made his first feature film in 1958, The Bells Have Gone to Rome, and seven years later earned a nomination for best director at Cannes for his work on The Round Up.
An allegorical depiction of liberty versus oppression, The Round Up was only allowed to be featured at Cannes because Jancso convinced Hungary’s then-Communist leaders that it had nothing to do with the crushed anti-Soviet revolution in 1956.
Although Jancso was bypassed for the award that year he received it for Red Psalm in 1972. In the elaborate film, based on a 19th-century peasant revolt, Jancso took his early style to the extreme: he used only 26 very long shots.
In 1979, Jancso was recognized with a lifetime achievement award at Cannes.
“We have lost the greatest Hungarian film director of all time, a thinker and a real democrat,” the director Bela Tarr, whose films built on Jancso’s legacy, told MTI.
“We are all the poorer for it. We will miss him forever.”
Jancso, who was married three times, followed the Italian screenwriter Giovanna Gallardo to Italy, where he lived with her for a decade and directed a string of Italian films, including Private Vices, Public Virtues, a 1975 historical drama.
In later life he changed tack and began to employ chaos as an organizing principle in his films, with less mainstream success than in his early career.
Along with directing, he was chairman of the Hungarian Directors’ Guild, and several times a liberal candidate for Parliament.
A cheerful father figure of Hungary’s liberals, affectionately called Uncle Mike, he supported legalizing marijuana. He is survived by four children.