Something like the Janis
Ian of Eastern Bloc cinema, Hungary’s Márta Mészáros has been the only uncompromised feminist voice emanating out of the region for more than three decades, and so a major retro is long overdue. Best taken
singularly, Mészáros’s films are lonely afternoons, dry-eyed
visits to a bilious Europe of epic industrial mundaneness,
inhabited largely by inadequate men and inadequately loved women. Virtually every one of her films is a quiet anthem
pitting the responsive intimacy between women against the needy insensitivity of men.
Her moody realism evokes the nearby Czech New Wave, but Mészáros has fought her own good fight, making films that bite back at the Communist state for the ruin it has made
of love lives, career ambitions, and adolescence. The MOMA retro travels from her first feature The Girl (1968) to her new film, Daughter of Luck (1999). In between there’s the conceptually remarkable trilogy Diary for My Children (1982), Diary for My Loves (1987), and Diary for My Mother and Father (1990), all starring Zsuzsa Czinkoczi as a young Mészárosian cineaste growing up to confront the
Revolt of 1956. More famous
are The Two of Them (1975),
Riddance (1973), and Adoption (1975), gloriously dour and brave explorations of gender combat and feminine refuge. Even pregnancy and birth, in Nine Months (1976), isn’t an
experience between mother and child, but a contention between the film’s rebellious heroine and the state.