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Archive for May, 2015

Corinthia2It seems like with each passing week a new article appears dubbing Budapest a ‘Hollywood on the Danube.’ With commercial productions like the new Tom Hanks film, Inferno, and Ridley Scott’s film The Martian having been shot here recently, not to mention the Jude Law, Melissa McCarthy pic Spy, it is not for no reason. But the most recent article, (in the Huffington Post this time), interestingly supports this claim by positing that the Grand Budapest Hotel, of Wes Anderson’s lauded film by the same name, found its inspiration in Budapest’s Grand Corinthia Hotel.

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Opened in 1896 on Budapest’s Grand Boulevard, the large circular shopping shopping artery, it became an immediate hit with Golden-age Hungarian writers like Gyula Krúdy. Designed in French renaissance style, it lived up to its reputation as a cosmopolitan luxury hotel. In addition to screening films, Béla Bartók regularly gave concerts in its Royal Ballroom, and Josephine Baker treated locals to one of her somewhat provocative performances in the hotel’s Oprheum Club in 1928. Post World War II, much of the hotel was converted to office space by the luxury-eschewing, tourist unfriendly government. It later was re-opened as a hotel, though its reconstruction destroyed all its original fixtures and interiors. A restoration was undertaken in 1991, and it has now returned to its status as one of the most sumptuous hotels in Pest.

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Not only does the hotel itself speculate that they were the inspiration for the hotel of Wes Anderson’s film, Kathleen Beckett at the Huffington Post backs that claim up, lauding the hotel’s connection to film history: “Budapest’s standing as a film center was cemented before the Kordas, however. The Lumiere brothers, the inventors of film-making, showed a black-and-white film in 1915 in Budapest in the grand ballroom of the Corinthia hotel, then the Grand Hotel Royal. The ballroom later became the Red Star Cinema, showing news clips.” The Corinthia Hotel Budapest, like Budapest itself, has a lot of film heritage to celebrate, and indeed helps the city earn earn the moniker, ‘Hollywood on the Danube.’

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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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Below is a selection from the from the wonderful series Ballerina Project Hungary, which feature ballerinas posing around some of Budapest’s more well-known sites, including Parliament, the State Opera, and the Széchenyi bath house. The series by Hungarian photographer Tünde Dóra is derived from the international Ballerina Project, created by photographer Dane Shitagi some 14 years ago. According to the Ballerina Project Hungary’s Facebook page, “The Ballerina Project is more than just documentation: it’s a nod of respect paid to the most effective essence of human motion, ballet. It is also an undistorted mirror of dancers’ ambitions…The dancers are taken away from the stage – this time the scenery is our living space, the city milieu, simple everyday life.”

Grace, elegance, utility: ballerinas and Budapest make great partners.

Note: all photos are under copyright by Tünde Dóra and used here by permission. Click on pictures to enlarge.

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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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Because we sometimes like to look at the homegrown, local-talent side of Budapest, we are dedicating this week to a nifty animated video called Látszat és valóság, or Appearance and Reality. The short film, made by native Russian team Elena Rogova és Zsenya Pavlenko, is set on the river Danube, between the locations of the Buda side, opposite the Parliament. The pair are co-directors of Amix Film Studio, which, according to their site, “is an animation company founded by producer Zhenia Pavlenko and director Elena Rogova and based in Hungary, near Budapest,” that “offers high quality and cost-effective animation.”

The short had its world premier at the Brooklyn Film Festival last year, and has since been shown all over the world. Both Pavlenko and Rogova worked at Budapest’s Varga Studio in various capacities (for instance on Mr. Bean) before forming their own company.

By all appearances, it’s a winning short! If this doesn’t charm the socks off you, nothing will.

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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The following was originally published in Hungarian on the Mr. Foster blog.

Stories That Time Forgot

Andrassy4Andrássy Boulevard, the Hungarian State Opera House, view from Hajós Street with the terrace of Drechsler Café in the foreground. Photo: FORTEPAN, gift of Gaaboo

I started out like somebody wanting to find treasure. Andrássy Boulevard. What a mystical word! For me, it’s like a red carpet that unrolls before you, unmistakably showing you the way. And even though you are stepping on hundred-year-old stones, it’s as if the soles of your feet still stick to the fresh surface. The boulevard that spans from Deák Square to Hősök Square was named after the prime minister at the time – Gyula Andrássy – who worked tirelessly to realize the plan. Of course, its name was changed countless times after that, until finally in 1990 it managed to win back its original name.

“To list Andrássy Boulevard’s various names in their entirety: from 1883, The Boulevard [Sugárút]; from 1886, Andrássy Boulevard [Andrássy út]; from 1950, Stalin Boulevard [Sztálin út]; from October 1956, The Boulevard of Hungarian Youth [Magyar Ifjúság útja]; from 1957, The Boulevard of the People’s Republic [Népköztársasság útja]; and, from 1990, Andrássy Boulevard once again” [Source: Wikipedia]

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Antal Berkes (1874–1938): Andrássy Boulevard

It was Baron Frigyes Podmaniczky who dreamed up the Boulevard, who conceived of the idea of a world-class city in place of the barren plots of land, and whose plans slowly shaped the face of what would become Pest’s Broadway. From 1873 to 1905, the Count was the deputy minister of the Capital City Public Works Commission [Fővárosi Közmunkák Tanácsa], and his life’s work was to bring the capital city to glory. They drew up the city’s master plan, building the ring roads, the boulevards, the river’s embankments, and three bridges across the Danube.

Podmaniczky – who also had a road named after him – had a lively social life and wouldn’t say no to a game of cards (tarokk). In the painting below, Artúr Ferraris captured this interesting social circle (which deserves a post of its own) for posterity: (pictured) Kálmán Tisza, István Nedeczky, Károly Sváb, Mór Jókai, Ödön Gajári, (behind Sváb) Prince Gyula Odescalchy (with the monocle), Lajos Csernátony, Aldzsi Beőthy, Frigyes Podmaniczky, Károly Pulszky, and Kálmán Mikszáth.

Legend has it that they had their own language during these card games:

“If Tisza said, ‘Which water should I drown in?’ it meant that he didn’t have a single in his hand. If one of them scratched his back as he called clubs and said, ‘There are three fleas biting my back!’ it meant that he still had three clubs left. If Tisza lost, as he was leaving he would say, ‘Matyi Ludas will pay this back three times over!’ At the end of the night, as Jókai rightly said, it was the ‘hora canonica’.” – as found in Vilmos Zolnay’s book, The History of Cards and Card Games [A kártya türténete és a kártyajátékok], 1928, where he talks about tarokk card games.

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Artúr Ferraris: The Historical Tarokk Card Party [A történelmi tarokkparti], 1894

But where does Pest’s Broadway stand in the middle of the 19th century?
Where the Opera House stands now, there was a notorious dive bar and the neighborhood had been overtaken by weeds. By night, Frigyes tried to rid the area of lowlifes, and by day, he showed off the new construction to the upper crust. Despite there being live entertainment in the city park, in the 1880s there were no tram or bus lines along Andrássy Boulevard. Hired carriages carried the crowds to their merrymaking along Király Street or the Fasor.

 

“– Baron, sir, what is it that changes a person on the Boulevard?

  • I wanted to lay the foundations for freedom. These are bold words, but nevertheless, where can you still find such an open area for riders and pedestrians alike? Here, a person won’t bump into anyone; they can stroll to their heart’s content in their best clothes and show themselves off to the world. Of course, this is all just an illusion. But, a powerful and real one. A public place is built on people’s desires.”

Gyula Krúdy considered the Opera House to be the jewel of Andrássy Boulevard. Its 300-year history stretches back to a time when opera performances were still held in the homes of the elite. As the taste for opera spread, the idea was born to build a venue solely for that purpose. Miklós Ybl designed the Neo-Renaissance style Opera House based on the opera houses in Dresden, Paris, and Vienna. Construction took nine years, with the end result being a shoe-shaped auditorium with outstanding acoustics, and a front façade where four muses enticed those promenading before them. They broke ground in October 1875.

The construction proceeded slowly, to the extent that in 1881 they even temporarily suspended construction on the interior. Finally, in September 1884, it was finished. As one could expect, the cost rose to 3.3 million forint from the original 2 million forint budget. The suspension of work was due to a fire at Vienna’s Ring Theatre, because of which they had to modify the fire safety plans, consequently reducing the capacity from 2,000 to 1,200 people.

The essence of the building can only really be appreciated together with its interior details and its acoustics. But those who might not be able to venture further inside, should at least walk around the building. You will discover 22 significant statues altogether: on the main terrace stand 16 statues of composers (Monteverdi, Scarlatti, Gluck, Mozart, Beethoven, Rossini, Donizetti, Glinka, Wagner, Verdi, Gounod, Bizet, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Moniuszko, and Smetana); on one side of the arched driveway is a statue of Ferenc Liszt, and on the other side is Ferenc Erkel (both the work of Alajos Stróbl); and in the four corners of the front terrace, statues of four muses proclaim the eternal spirit of art.

 

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Andrássy Boulevard, the Hungarian State Opera House. Photographed around 1890. Photo: FORTEPAN, gift of György Klösz

“I put a passer-by to the test. She could be in her seventies. She is wearing a knee-length skirt with stockings and slipper-type shoes that clack as she walks. She is carrying an old plastic bag.

  • Good day, could you to tell me what kinds of muses are here above us? – to make sure she knows which, I point up toward the statues.
  • Muses? What kind of creatures are those?
  • They are supposed to be the inspiration for art. They’ve stood here on the opera house façade since 1884.
  • Who has time to look up? I’ve worked my fingers to the bone for forty years. I have never been in the building, but it sure is very swanky. For me, the movie theatre was always the big treat.
  • And if the muses should cast a spell on you one of these days?
  • Well, they can go ahead – she says as she goes on her way. I couldn’t convince her of the special nature of the statues.

I can’t get the conversation out of my head; at night I search for the names of the muses. The ladies all stand there in a beautiful row: the muses of dance, comedy, love poetry, and tragedy – Terpsichore, Thalia, Erato, and Melpomene.”

 

I pledge allegiance to the yellow angel instead of the blue caterpiller

The beauty of being on the metro is that it hasn’t changed. On May 2, 1896, one of Europe’s first underground trains was opened as part of the millennial celebrations. The English were the first to put public transportation underground, but whereas the London metro was steam powered, the Budapest metro was driven by electricity. If you have time, on your journey, you should pay attention to the late 19th century building technology, for which the foundational materials were steel and cast iron. Emperor József Ferenc himself tried out the metro, so that the people of the city would throng to it with excitement.

Today, such throngs are normal, if not crushing on busier days. Nevertheless, I still love this stifling yellow angel more than the sterile blue caterpillar, because its characteristic squeaks and clatters from the track lull me on my way home. I meditate.

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Construction of the Andrássy Boulevard Underground metro, 1895. Photo: FORTEPAN.

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Andrássy Boulevard and Bajcsy Zsilinszky Street (formerly Vilmos császár), 1908. Photo: FORTEPAN.

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Andrássy Boulevard 103. At the Hopp Ferenc world travelers’ garden.  Photo: FORTEPAN, gift of Cholnoky Tamás . 

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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