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Archive for February, 2015

All the world loves a list. We particularly love lists when Budapest is featured on them. Here, from Bored Panda, the favorite website of time-wasters and procrastinators, we find a list where Budapest gets not one, but two mentions. No surprise for us, it’s a list of the most beautiful movie theaters in the world, where we can claim both the third and sixth spot, with the Urania National Theater, and the Puskin Theater respectively.

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In fairness to the Urania, it is actually the first theater on Panda’s list that doesn’t feature novelty seating (first place sees beds used as seats, second place, cars). We wrote some on the Urania in an earlier post, so we hope you don’t mind if we quote ourselves: “The history of Hungarian film is almost as old as film itself. Since Adolf Zukor Michael Curtis, and William Fox left Hungary to help build studios and make classic movies in California, the country has remained a fertile ground for innovators and trail-blazers on the international film scene. It is only fitting that one of the grandest, most elegant movie theaters on the planet is situated in the heart of Budapest.

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The Urania stands as a functioning monument to the great artistic achievements of film and a tribute to audiences who still like to enjoy cinema in a proper movie theater. The structure housing the Urania was constructed in the 1880s. Its original purpose was actually not film related: nickelodeons had yet to even debut at that point in history. The Urania was what is known as an ‘Orpheum’, which is a kind of cabaret/dance hall. Right before the turn of the century, it was refitted to be a movie theater, in order to first host a Hungarian Scientific Society’s presentation, and then later to accommodate the rush of interest in this new crowd-pleasing medium.” Currently, it is the theater of choice for film festivals and movie premiers.

The Pushkin is smaller than the Urania, but still elegant and painstakingly preserved. When it opened in 1926, it was then the largest cinema in Europe. Though it has passed hands many times, the splendor of the main theater has been kept intact, with the original gilded ornamentation of sculpture Sándor Kristián having created a regal, majestic atmosphere for film-goers. Perhaps the attention to the opulent ornamentation is due to the fact that the Pushkin was originally a casino before being converted. Like the Urania, it bucks the trend towards blockbuster films, and serves primarily as an art-house cinema for Hungarian and foreign films alike.

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So stop by Budapest; it’s a film lovers’ city, for those who make them but also for those who just enjoy them. Here you will find two of the most beautiful cinemas in the world. We know, because lists don’t lie.

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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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In case you haven’t noticed, Hungarian literature in translation is currently experiencing a renaissance. Only ten or so years ago, Hungarian writers published on major presses in English were very rare indeed. Now, with the international lionization of living Hungarian writers like László Krasznahorkai and Péter Nádas, the entire Hungarian canon is being cherry-picked for re/translation for the British and US markets. Novels like the pre-WWII classic Journey By Moonlight by Antal Szérb and many titles from Sándor Márai ’s body of work have recently experienced huge success in their English translations.

The latest novel from Hungarian literature to become an unexpected (yet somehow expected) hit is The Door by Magda Szabó. Szabó is a cherished author here, and there have been nominal efforts made in the past to introduce her works to an English-speaking audience. Indeed, she has been widely translated into numerous languages, but her works have yet to be fully appreciated in America. But The Door, considered by some to be her greatest novel, has recently received a re-translation by esteemed translator Len Rix, and a splashy publication by prestigious New York Review of Books, sparking huge interest in the title.

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The narrative of The Door sounds deceptively quiet, detailing the relationship between a female writer and her cleaning lady. The story, however, turns into a living history of Hungary and becomes a profound examination of human relationships in all their fragility and complexity.

Upon getting stellar reviews, the publisher is having a hard time keeping up with demand, and tweeted that multiple booksellers had sold out. Here is what literary luminary Claire Messud had to say in the New York Times: “If you’ve felt that you’re reasonably familiar with the literary landscape, “The Door” will prompt you to reconsider. It’s astonishing that this masterpiece should have been essentially unknown to English-­language readers for so long, a realization that raises once again the question of what other gems we’re missing out on. The dismaying discussion of how little translated work is available in the United States must wait for another venue; suffice it to say that I’ve been haunted by this novel. Szabo’s lines and images come to my mind unexpectedly, and with them powerful emotions. It has altered the way I understand my own life.”

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Szabó, who died in 2007 at the age of 90, had a prolific life, and was the author of many more novels, though you will have to wait – hopefully not too long – before they are available in English.

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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via Lajos Kassai/ Facebook

Actor Matt Damon has been spending time in and around Budapest as of late, getting intensive training from Hungarian horse archery master Lajos Kassai, at Kassai’s school in the village of Kaposmérő. Damon is learning the Hungarian martial art in preparation for his role in the big budget Hollywood film The Great Wall, which tells the tale of the building of one of the world’s seven wonders. Of Damon, Kassai had this to say (via his Facebook page) “I was invited to help Matt Damon to prepare to his new movie and to develop the action scenes. In the Hollywood production with a budget of more hundred million dollars the main character is a horseback archer. The common work has been started; Matt is an entirely exceptional talent and learns surprisingly quickly.”

Though the film, obviously, takes place in China, it is no accident that Damon is studying the sport here in Hungary. Mounted archers were once feared across Europe, led by Attila the Hun in the fourth century AD. But as gunpowder increasingly replaced arrows, the art of the Huns became lost. Kassai has almost single-handedly revived the art of horse archery, and founded it as a modern sport based in ancient traditions. In the field, he holds no less than five Guinness World records, including shooting over a thousand arrows in 12 hours and his epic 24 hours spent practicing mounted horse archery. Horsenation.com calls him the “Chuck Norris of horseback archery,” and not for no reason. He has also been called a modern-day Attila the Hun, though he spends more time spreading the art of horseback archery than spreading terror.

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Lajos founded the Hungarian School of Horseback Archery, which has subsidiary branches in countries such as Bulgaria and Norway. Kassai’s approach is rather holistic, creating unity between man, beast, and bow. In his own words, taken from his school’s website:

“One cannot always perceive the rivers in his way through life. Sometimes, later, when you look back, you actually realize you destiny. I think we were born in this world not as “tabula rasa” but rather as the original destines of our souls, who have been forgotten, because of superfluous daily routine. Only those of us, capable of living without egoism, beyond the common sense, have the chance to find their soul again. Thus, I became bow craftsman. The bow was a thread of silk, as minute as a hair that I gathered and followed back to the world of my ancestors. My mind was full of horses, galloping in the steppes and arrows whizzing and snow-white yurts shining under the scorching sunlight. My inner realm was now revealed. I understood the revelation of my life. It was straight, a road leading to the ideals of horseback archery.”

We look forward to hearing more about Damon’s Hungarian adventure, and hopefully seeing some clips of him on horseback, arrows flying. For now you can view Kassai’s skills at work in this clip from a British documentary on ballistic warfare below, followed by a promotional video for his school.

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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Watching this short film, a travelogue shot in the 1930s in Budapest, one realizes the truth behind the cliché the more things change, the more they stay the same. The video could have easily been shot today but for the black and white film and the dress of the city’s denizens. Here we are, almost a century later, and if you walk around town you can still see most of the primary sites featured in this pre-World War Two film: Gresham Palace (now a Four Seasons Hotel), Parliament, the Chain Bridge, the Széchenyi Bath House, and the Liszt Ferenc Music Academy – all unchanged but for some rehabilitation.

The Screen Traveler: Gay and Beautiful Budapest was shot from the innocent lens of the 1930s. Created by American travel film-maker Andre De La Varre, the clip does capture a few peculiarities that we are not likely to see again: a pond front and center of Heroes’ Square, an all-white uniformed officer directing traffic like a human traffic light, and Vaci Street without a single McDonald’s or Starbucks.

In this film you can really see why Budapest is the go-to backdrop for historical films and period pieces, including Bel Ami, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Evita, as it is at once dynamic yet unchanging. So take a trip back in time with this unique film travelogue. We’ll meet you in 1930.

 

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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