In Memoriam Imre Gyongyossy

A moving farewell for those who knew him, and a dignified recap of the man's work, life and thoughts, "In Memoriam Imre Gyongyossy" is a well executed, unobvious tribute to the Hungarian writer-helmer by his wife, Katalin Petenyi, and partner Barna Kabay. Festivals and cinematheques who've shown Gyongyossy's work over the years will want to find a spot for this, plus cultural webs worldwide. Rather than treading the usual path of interviews with co-workers in between the clips and bio, Petenyi and Kabay have cobbled together the man's own words drawn from interviews and his poetry. Read with simple feeling by actor Sandor Szakacsi that captures the flavor of Gyongyossy's own delivery, the words of the helmer (who never penned an autobiography) make a semi-musing, semi-poetic accompaniment to a wealth of pic extracts, home-movie footage and still photos charting his troubled life, which ended with a heart attack in 1994.

Born in the countryside, and sent to a Benedictine monastery at age 10 (where he learned Italian and European culture), Gyongyossy was jailed in 1951 for three years during one of the most politically repressive eras of Hungary’s recent history. Studying filmmaking during the ’50s and ’60s under many of the country’s great directors, he finally took the helm with the rural-set “Palm Sunday” (1968), which drew attention on the fest and art circuit, later forming a creative menage a trois with Kabay and wife Petenyi, the latter coming from the academic world.

Docu showcases all the major works, including “A Quite Ordinary Life,” “People of the Puszta,” the Oscar-nommed “Job’s Revolt” and dramadocu “Homeless,” building a portrait of a multifaceted man forever marked by his years of imprisonment and by his childhood memories of rural community values, group celebration and shared experiences. In later years, his best work was in documentaries rather than features.

Tech credits are OK, given the sometimes average quality of the materials at hand, and extracts and commentary well-matched. Even for those who think they know the person behind the pictures, there still are a few surprises here.

In Memoriam Imre Gyongyossy

Hungarian - German

Production: A Magyar Televizio, Europa 2000 (Hungary)/Satellit Film (Germany) production. (International sales: Satellit, Germany.) Produced by Barna Kabay. Directed, written by Katalin Petenyi, Barna Kabay.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Peter Jankura, Janos Kende, Sandor Sara, Gabor Szabo, Laszlo Z. Szalay, Ferenc Szechenyi, Michael Teutsch; editors, Marta Revesz, Maria Nagy; music, Zoltan B. Biro, Zoltan Jeney, Zoltan Pesko; sound, Peter Pecsi. Reviewed at Hungarian Film Week, Budapest, Feb. 9, 1997. Running time: 82 MIN.

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