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Archive for April, 2013

Newyorkkavehaz1These days Budapest is known for its ruin pubs, but there was a time when the city’s lively cafés were the main circuit for those who liked to see and be seen. And there was no more prominent spot on any bohemian’s map than the New York Café. The building, in a commanding location on the Grand Boulevard in District VII, was commissioned by the New York Life Insurance Company, and opened in 1894. The eclectic style, relying on Italian Renaissance and Baroque, reflected the international ownership and clientele.

According to legend, writer Ferenc Molnár, an early regular, took the key to New York’s front door and threw it into the Danube, so the café would be forced to stay open all night. The place was, it is fair to say, writer-friendly. The head waiter supplied reams of paper – known as ‘dog’s tongues’ – to those  writers who were regulars at the café. Encyclopedias and reference books were kept on hand should they be needed by the bookish clientele. Newspapers had their own ‘home tables’ for their journalists and editors, like a satellite office, and the editors and writers from Hungary’s most famous literary review, Nyugat, regularly took their coffee at New York (though later they would migrate to Central Café in inner Pest). Among the famous writers who labored at New York were the aforementioned Ferenc Molnár (whose true fame was only known after he emigrated to America), Gyula Krúdy (the Proust of Budapest), and Frigyes Karinthy. Of course the dazzling interior was bound to attract visual artists as well: during its golden age Hungarian Impressionists and Naturalists lounged there, as did the budding film-making community, including Casablanca director Michael Curtiz.

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newyorkkavehaz2After World War I the space that housed the New York Café changed hands several times. The cafe was closed and reopened as a restaurant, burlesque, travel agency, and even a sporting goods store. After a few more miss-starts, in 2001, the Italian Boscolo Group bought the building and painstakingly restored the café over the course of several years. These days, you are more likely to see tourists, bankers, or film stars at New York Cafe than writers or artists, and if you ask for a ‘dog’s tongue’ the waiter will probably think it is some new sort of energy drink. But history speaks from the statuary; the café is a veritable cultural history of Budapest.

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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There is nothing more predictable than the re-emergence of the character of Dracula. You just can’t seem to keep the famous Count down, in his guise as a creature of the night, or as modern celebrity. Since the inception of the novel Dracula, the character has been re-incarnated hundreds of times in film alone, not to mention all the plays, comics, spin off books, and – more recently – anime and video games, that have featured perhaps the most famous monster of all time.

Nor is it a huge surprise that Budapest is (once again) chosen as a portion of the backdrop behind the telling the latest Dracula story; the 10-part mini-series, Dracula, is currently filming in both London and Budapest. This particular permutation of the Dracula legend finds the undead hero cast as an American, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers. The plot re-envisions Dracula as a young entrepreneur arriving in London to sell a recent invention, though he is really there to take revenge on the people who turned him into a vampire centuries ago. His mission is complicated by the emergence of a love-interest who may be the re-incarnation of his long-dead wife.

Of course, vampires and this part of the world are nothing new. As we pointed out in an earlier post, the very first Dracula film was shot in Budapest by Hungarian film-makers in1921. The Death of Dracula starred a mostly Hungarian cast, and was directed Károly Lajhay and was co-written by Michael Curtiz, who went on to emigrate to American and direct Casablanca. Furthermore, the real-life inspiration for Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, the blood-thirsty Wallachian ruler, spent many years under house arrest in Budapest, when he was considered to be a liability to the Hungarian monarchy. There is something about Budapest and Dracula that just go together, as his constant return seems to prove.

Stern Film Stúdió in Pomaz, directly north of Budapest, is serving as a sound stage for the local filming. The series is being distributed in part by the US broadcaster NBC and the UK-based Sky Living.

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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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BookfairYou know it is spring in Budapest when writers from around the world descend on the Buda side of the city to participate in the International Book Festival. This year marks the fair’s 20th anniversary, and if the program and line-up are any indication, the event is only growing in prestige and popularity.

Like book festivals around the world, the International Book Festival in Budapest offers a venue for publishers to present their works, new and old, to both industry players and the general public. This year’s guest country is Italy, which is well represented by publishers and writers, and the guest of honor is perhaps the most controversial writer alive, Michel Houellebecq. The French writer joins a long list of daring choices for guests of honor at the fair, including Salman Rushdie and Brett Easton Ellis.

The program for the four-day event is absolutely packed. Events range from straight up lectures and readings to more whimsical activities, like a basketball skills competition with Italian author/ basketball star Luca Cognolato. Children are not left behind either: there are numerous events that feature children’s poetry and music to entertain the small ones. Another event instructs participants in the basics of bookbinding. Japanese literature will be represented by a Haruki Murakami afternoon, where visitors receive a free Japanese gift with each title bought. Hungarian authors who publish in English like György Konrad and László Krasznahorkai will be on hand to sign their books, along with international authors David Grossman and, of course, Michel Houellebecq.

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The fair has made a special effort to address new media and digital publishing this year, as these aspects of book publishing have gained such importance in recent times.

The International Book Festival in Budapest runs from Thursday, April 18th to Sunday, April 21.

Find the official site with a detailed program for download here.

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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fateless3It happens every so often that you look out your window in Budapest to see the city transformed: not by snow or rain, but entirely changed into another city or another time. This happened to me when I was living on Lórinc Pap Tér, an unassuming square in the inner Eight District. Instead of mothers and baby carriages, newly planted shrubbery, and a sign for the Kamra pub, I saw rubble, billboards in German, a line of goose-stepping soldiers, and a small boy wearing prison garb. Had I time-travelled back to WWII?

No, what was transpiring was a shot for the film Fateless, derived from Nobel Prize winning author Imre Kertész’s book Fatelessness (also translated as Fateless in some editions). The novel was lauded by the Nobel Prize committee as containing “writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history,” and is considered both a cornerstone in Holocaust literature and a modern classic. Indeed, the story, though written as  fiction, was based on Kertész’s own childhood experience. The narrative follows György “Gyuri” Köves as he is sent to Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Zeitz; documents his trials there, and ends with his eventual release and return to Budapest.

Academy Award nominated director Lajos Koltai used Kertész’s own screenplay to shoot from, making use of locations in and around Budapest. With a 12 million dollar budget, it was one of the most expensive Hungarian films ever made and garnered a Golden Berlin Bear nomination for its director. It is rumored that when Kertész visited the set, he had to leave after just a half an hour, he was so disturbed by the accuracy with which the filmmakers had recreated WWII Hungary. Just one look out the window affirmed that every care was taken to get terrifying details down to the point where even onlookers felt a chill.

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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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bikaver-labelThere was a time (read: Socialism) when all the world knew of Hungarian wine was the acidic if not downright sour-tasting red cuvée Bikavér, or as it is known in the West, Bull’s Blood. Though Bull’s Blood is one of the most popular Hungarian wines, only one company sold it abroad, Eger’s formerly state-owned Hungarovin.

These days, the red of socialism has washed away, but the ruby-colored Bull’s Blood remains, though it is now quite a different animal. This is because local winemakers have taken it upon themselves to reinvigorate, if not rehabilitate, the Bull’s Blood brand. It can be said that this cherished cuvée is one of the most exciting things about contemporary local wine production. While winemakers have gotten quite creative with the re-invention of this stalwart, they still have to conform to certain standards, regulated by the Hungarian Wine Making Act, which was put into place to preserve quality and local heritage. Bull’s Blood must contain three or more grape varietals from Kékfrankos, Blauburger, Portugiser, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Kadarka, and Zweigelt. No grape may comprise more than 50 percent of the mix. All production must come from facilities residing in or around the town of Eger (though the Villany/Szeksazard regions have successfully lobbied to be allowed to produce Bull’s Blood, and have been making Bull’s Blood for some time now.)

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Legends abound about the wine and its origins. It is said that the Turkish tried to invade the town of Eger during the Ottoman occupation. The men of the village drank deeply of many different wines to fortify their courage for the fight. The wine that spilled from their mouths splashed down their beards and onto their clothing, making them appear as though they had just feasted on blood. The word was passed among the Turkish that the Hungarian warriors were drinking the blood of bulls as nourishment. The frightened Turkish retreated and the invasion was successfully repelled.

We would like to invite the Turkish back, only this time to skip the skirmishes and partake in a glass of Bull’s Blood alongside the locals. It’s more fun that way.

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