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FILMS / REVIEWS Hungary / Romania / Switzerland / UK

Review: Treasure City

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- Szabolcs Hajdu unveils the first major Hungarian film to be released directly on VOD: a subtle mix of nocturnal urban tales exploring the darker side of human relations

Review: Treasure City
Abel Korokvay and Lujza Hajdu in Treasure City

Lies and half-truths, attempts at psychological domination and vulnerability, wear, tear and conjugal conflicts, educational disagreements, verbal escalations and slip-ups, taunts, humiliations and threats, political activism and fear, solitude, emotional complications and a gulf between generations, communication and witchcraft, all unfolding against a backdrop of omnipresent, fascist, state propaganda. Orchestrating a sophisticated toing and froing of characters - a small shadow theatre show, of sorts – which takes place in one town over the course of one night, Hungarian filmmaker Szabolcs Hajdu offers up his new opus, Treasure City [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, a work embarking upon an in-depth exploration of human intimacy as experienced today. Playing with the boundaries of hard-to-contain emotions, stylistically diverse and highly restrained (in a deliberately non-ostentatious tone), it’s also the first feature film by a Magyar director of international repute (White Palms [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Szabolcs Hajdu
film profile
]
at the Directors’ Fortnight 2006, Bibliothèque Pascal [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Szabolcs Hajdu - director
interview: Szabolcs Hajdu
film profile
]
in the Berlinale Forum 2010, Mirage [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
in Toronto 2014, It’s Not the Time of My Life [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Szabolcs Hajdu
film profile
]
, the winner of the Best Film and Best Actor gongs in Karlovy Vary 2016) to go straight to VOD, having been available on Vimeo since 23 April in Hungary and Romania.

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Opening with a quote from the Austrian novel Gel by Thomas Bernhard ("as if just then everything was possible: the ugly approaches the beautiful, and vice versa, the ruthless and the weak"), Treasure City spins its web and lays the foundations for the cinematic experience it will offer with a few initial frame blocks (each lasting between six to eight minutes) which slowly and subtly interconnect as the story unfurls (based upon a script penned by the director): a woman tries to understand why a girl won’t stop lying during an up-close conversation in a bar; a mother, accompanied by her ten-year-old child, gets into a heated argument with a florist following a banal discussion which escalates incrementally; a husband and wife quarrel at the dinner table over their punk son who’s in the grips of teenage angst (and love); a small group of activists storm a government facility, megaphone in hand ("we’re here today because the country’s leading political party is dismantling our legal institutions... While you profess to be protecting the country from terrorism, 2,000 people committed suicide in this miserable country last year: you’re the world leader in that respect, Prime Minister, you might want to think about that"), a small troupe of actors perform a play in an apartment, which a famous director comes to review before trying to bring “fresh meat” on board (the liar from the beginning of the film). And the guiding thread of this interconnected, free-flowing skein are the town’s streets, a stylish, near-deserted bar and a strange VTC driver with long hair and black glasses...

Brilliantly acted by the entire cast (Lilla Sárosdi, Magdó Pálfi, Domokos Szabó, Nóra Földeák, Abel Korokvay, Szabolcs Hajdu himself, Orsolya Török-Illyés, Lujza Hajdu, Fanni Wrochna, Árpád Schilling, Wihlelm Buchmann and Bence Gelányi), Treasure City capitalises on its music (coming courtesy of Freakin’ Disco) and the quality of its photography (Csaba Bántó) and mise en scène, so as to deliver on its conceptual promise of a close-up portrait of a deeply torn society. It’s a rich film which never takes the easy route and which isn’t always gay, but it never sinks into absolute darkness and knows how to bounce back, through multiple layers, to tread the fine line of irony that’s inherent to our everyday dramas. It’s a work which deploys the very subtle art of semi-shading, though its depiction of the current situation in Hungary couldn’t be more explicit.

Produced by Jim Stark, Szabolcs Hajdu and Orsolya Török-Illyés on behalf of Látókép-Production and Art-Játék Association, Treasure City was co-produced by Filmtett (Romania), Bord Cadre Films (Switzerland) and Sovereign Films (UK).

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(Translated from French)

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