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DIRECTED BY: Benjamin Meade, Andras Suranyi
FEATURING: Erno Locsei, Stan Brakhage, James Ellroy, Roy Menninger, Etuska Locsei
PLOT: Filmmakers discover a batch of home movies shot by a Hungarian family in the years following World War II; they set out to find surviving members of the family, while calling upon a group of expert viewers to help them interpret the footage.
COMMENTS: For as long as there have been movies, there have been professionals who seek to deliver a story to a wider audience, and there have been amateurs who only wish to record personal moments for later reminiscence. When it comes to the latter, the idea that anyone beyond a very small circle might see the footage borders on absurd. To reach a mass audience, the film would have to present something of enormous significance, like the scene captured by Abraham Zapruder in Dallas in November 1963. Or perhaps it could be used to comment on current events, such as to understand the accused subjects of Capturing the Friedmans. But beyond that, a home movie seems of little public value outside of the home, and to watch one uninvited feels nosy at best and invasive at worst.
The directors of Vakvagany seem to feel they’ve backed into a Rear Window scenario. Someone has found some old home movies, they’ve watched them, and they’ve seen some surprising things: a couple sorting through a treasure trove of jewelry and other valuables. Unusually lengthy shots of a nude infant. Footage of a mother holding her toddler son’s penis as he attempts to urinate. “What’s going on here?” they must have asked themselves. “Is this immoral? Criminal, even?” Their snooping has led them to a possibly unsavory place, and now they feel compelled to know more.
In these discovered films, we meet the Locsei family, and the first facts we receive are unsettling. Mr. Locsei was evidently a functionary in the postwar Hungarian government. A neighbor suggests he may have overseen the collection of valuables from Jews who were deported to concentration camps during the war, which may explain that delighted sorting of valuables we witnessed. (On the other hand, it will be suggested later in the film that Mr. Locsei was actually saving these possessions to be returned to their owners.) We also see his wife cavorting with grapes, which matches with suggestions of alcoholism. Most importantly, we see the two Locsei children, who don’t relish being on camera, hardly surprising given some of the awkward moments to which they’ve been subjected.
To help us out, the filmmakers have enlisted onscreen interpreters, who are shockingly confident in their impromptu reactions. Legendary experimentalist Brakhage, upon seeing a father embracing his squirming daughter, opines, “I don’t quite believe his hugs,” and later compares the son’s efforts to free his arm from his father’s grasp to a Nazi salute. (“Perhaps I’m reading too much into it,” he then admits.) Psychiatrist Menninger wryly notes the professional Continue reading IT CAME FROM THE READER-SUGGESTED QUEUE: VAKVAGANY (2002)