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Archive for May, 2012

Not long ago we posted about the curious amount of Norwegians who come to Budapest to get their education in medicine at Semmelweis University. Lately in the news, though, we found one of Hungary’s most beautiful minds – and one-time medical student himself – travelling to Norway to be honored with the Abel Prize, known in certain brainy circles as the ‘Nobel of Math’.

This year’s Abel Prize recipient, Endre Szemerédi – a young-looking 71 – is the first Hungarian to receive the honor. According to the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters the prize was bequeathed for Szemerédi’s advances in discreet mathematics, which informs theoretical computer science and information theory.

Like most Hungarians who achieve worldwide fame, Szemerédi’s path to success was fraught with obstacles. At one point, this great mind was even making his living working in a factory. Ever modest, and despite his long time abroad (he has lived and taught in the United States for many decades), Szemerédi credits his Hungarian upbringing and the long tradition of innovation in mathematics in Hungary for his achievement: “It is not my own personal achievement, but recognition for this field of mathematics and Hungarian mathematicians,” he told NJ.com

In the book, An Irregular Mind, published prior to the award ceremony, it was written that “Szemerédi has an ‘irregular mind’; his brain is wired differently than for most mathematicians. Many of us admire his unique way of thinking, his extraordinary vision.”

At almost 900,000 dollars the Abel Prize should make for a very happy Hungarian indeed. Endre Szemerédi currently teaches at Rutgers in the US state of New Jersey.

PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.

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An investigator with a weakness for justice and beautiful women, the corpse of a young prostitute who died under mysterious circumstances, and a conspiracy that stretches from the thugs of the ghetto to the offices of the highest levels of government. It might be a long-lost Raymond Chandler novel, except the dead woman was Jewish, and the ghetto is in Interwar Budapest, where criminals lurk around the corners of shady Pest streets as well as in in the halls of Parliament. The plot of the highly entertaining novel Budapest Noir unfolds both logically and surprisingly, which is what we expect of a 50’s style crime book. The author – Vilmos Kondor (an assumed name for a writer who wishes to remain anonymous) – is clearly in love with American crime noir and pulp fiction. What the book may lack in literary prose, it makes up for with unique Hungarian twists: a pensioner who obsessively makes jam at home; shady dealings between the rising Nazi party and assimilated Budapest Jews; and the natural moodiness of the central 7th and 8th districts of Pest.

Budapest itself becomes a character in the novel, and is a fitting backdrop to the crime noir genre. It is no accident that Kondor’s journalist hero Zsigmond Gordon invokes the city of Chicago when bringing perspective to the criminal underground in Budapest: the cities share a certain working-class thuggishness. Of course, crime syndicates and dirty politics are nothing new to either city, but it is curious that a neighborhood in a Budapest ghetto went by the nickname ‘Chicago’ for years, before it gentrified. Furthermore, the word ‘bunko’ which roughly translates into ‘knucklehead’ from Hungarian, was also used in early 20th century Chicago to denote a certain type of street card game.

Kodor’s Budapest is likewise a place of vast charm and danger, where total lawlessness is kept under control by only the most flimsy of restraints. It is a bit jarring to read about characters hanging out at the Tick Bite, the local bar, and downing pálinka (Hungarian brandy) rather than Jazz clubs and bourbon, yet it works, and does so elegantly in the English language translation by Paul Olchvary. This book was written with cinema as an influence, and perhaps cinema in mind as a final product. It is only too bad that Humphrey Bogart is not around to play Zsigmond Gordon. Perhaps Ben ‘Geza’ Affleck is available.

And if you need production help, we think you know where to turn.

PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.

– Matt Ellis is an author coach, manuscript editor and freelance writer at Wordpill Editing Service.

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Photo by Caroline Bonarde Ucci, GNU Free Documentation License

It’s no secret around Budapest that Bruce Willis arrived this week, along with his wife, model Emma Heming, and their baby. In the coming weeks (months, even) Willis will be shooting the fifth installment to the wildly popular Die Hard franchise, called A Good Day to Die Hard. This Die Hard is helmed by Behind Enemy Lines director Max Payne. Producer Andrew Vajna (much mentioned in this blog) was no doubt helpful in moving the shoot from its original location – Prague – to Budapest, which will double as Moscow. The highly anticipated film will be the most expensive (behind Hell Boy II) ever made in Hungary, at over 100 million dollars. Hungary has barely had time to recover from Brad Pitt’s big budget World War Z, but recover it must, because Die Hard 5 will use the city’s abundant locations to their fullest.

Willis may be the star, but Budapest itself deserves second billing. Were Budapest an actor, it would be a versatile character actor, with its proven ability to double as cities as varied as Rome, Paris, Munich, Buenos Aires and Moscow. Sometimes Budapest even has the privilege of playing itself (as in the Ralph Fiennes staring Sunshine), though that is rare in Hollywood films.

From the Baross Metro station to the quaint and very quiet Jósika Utca in District 7, Willis and his crew will virtually take over entire sections of the city at a time, pasting advertisements and street signs in the Cyrillic alphabet to give the locations a more Russian feel. It is fair to say that Budapest is a most accommodating host as well, considering the amount of territory the shoot will cover, with main arteries in the city’s center, and even the subway, interrupted for filming. As well as street scenes the film will – as we have come to expect – feature tons of gunfire, action, and explosions. We are told that the audience will be treated to the sight of a Budapest tram (street trolley) blown high into the air: a sight I am sure many a frustrated passengers will relish.

Also playing a main roll in the shoot is Vajna’s Korda Studio, situated near Budapest. The studio will be assisting in with sound stages, special effects and post-production. It has been reported that several hundred local Hungarian actors and technical crew will be working on the picture.

The filming of Die hard 5 is an unfolding story, and will be covered in more depth in the upcoming PPM newsletter, which you can sign up for here. Until then, Budapest is ready for its close-up.

Corrections to this article are welcome, as are tips and info on the Die Hard 5 shoot: please e-mail editor-at-pilvaxmag.com

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