Review: No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos and (2012)

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Mark Leeper

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Feb 26, 2012, 2:26:46 PM2/26/12
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NO SUBTITLES NECESSARY: LASZLO & VILMOS
(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Writer and director James Chressanthis gives
us a star-studded tribute to Vilmos Zsigmond and
Laszlo Kovacs, two cinematographers of nearly identical
backgrounds who brought a much more natural feel to
film photography. NO SUBTITLES NECESSARY: LASZLO &
VILMOS traces the two men's careers from photographing
together the 1956 Hungarian Uprising to filming between
them many of the most important and influential films
of the late 20th century. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4)
or 8/10

NO SUBTITLES NECESSARY: LASZLO & VILMOS is a documentary about the
careers and lifelong friendship of cinematographers Vilmos Zsigmond
and Laszlo Kovacs. Coming from Budapest, Hungary, the two
revolutionized the look of film in the 1970s and 1980s, bringing a
more naturalistic style to American filmmaking. Together and
separately they filmed 140 movies, including some of the most
influential films of the 1970s and 1980s: EASY RIDER, THE DEER
HUNTER, FIVE EASY PIECES, PAPER MOON, HEAVEN'S GATE, MCCABE &
MRS. MILLER, and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.

Vilmos and Laszlo were film students together in Budapest. In 1956
came the Hungarian Uprising when the people tried to throw off
Soviet domination of Hungary. The two men in their mid-twenties
took cameras to the street to document the conflicts. They gave
little thought to the personal danger they faced from the invading
Soviet troops. They filmed the army firing on their fellow
countrymen. Their style was to get close to the action and they
could not set up lights. They had to use available light. This
was a training ground for a naturalistic style that would serve
them well later in life. The Soviets won and there were the two
filmmakers with 30,000 feet of cinema footage of the revolt and a
home country that did not dare to see it. So the two escaped to
Austria, smuggling out their contraband footage. They gravitated
to California and the American film industry, their progress
somewhat impeded by inability to speak English. From there they
gradually worked their way into the film industry, filming a few
porno films and some horror. Laszlo got some attention for his
work on EASY RIDER in 1969. For Vilmos the breakthrough film was
1971 film MCCABE & MRS. MILLER for Robert Altman. Either together
or separately, they worked on many of the major films of the
period. Their style was to avoid staginess to create an
uncontrived feel.

Writer and director James Chressanthis mixes equal parts of respect
and affection in profiling the two filmers. He presents interviews
with Karen Black, Peter Bogdanovich, Sandra Bullock, Richard
Donner, Dennis Hopper, Todd McCarthy, Robert McLachlan, Bob
Rafelson, Mark Rydell, Sharon Stone, Jon Voight, and John Williams.
There are also clips from films from their combined works. The
clips themselves do more than the discussion and interview do to
display the special texture their photography gives a scene.
Particularly with exterior scenes the background becomes as
important as the actors. The blackening sky from the first
sequence of SCARECROW or the deep forest of DELIVERANCE can be as
active a participant as the actors in front of it.

One negative aspect of the film is that as it is presented it is
hard to keep straight which photographer shot which films. Their
styles were quite similar. But since the film celebrates their
joint contribution, perhaps that is even some of the intention.
These are two men, as close as brothers, whose mission and message
was to not create an artificial environment to shoot the film in.
It is instead to take a natural environment and show it off with
the quality of the photography. This film makes an excellent
companion piece to the documentary VISIONS OF LIGHT: THE ART OF
CINEMATOGRAPHY directed by Arnold Glassman, Todd McCarthy, and
Stuart Samuels. I rate NO SUBTITLES NECESSARY: LASZLO & VILMOS a high
+2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10. It is highly recommended for
cinema fans. It will be released to video February 28, 2012.

Film Credits: <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1054118/>


Mark R. Leeper
mle...@optonline.net
Copyright 2012 Mark R. Leeper
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