Just because no one sails the high seas in Szindbád doesn’t mean it’s not transportive. Zoltán Huszárik’s 1971 curio, long regarded as a lost masterpiece of Hungarian cinema and now fully restored, tells of an aging seducer looking back on his conquests with a sort of melancholic fondness.
The title character is a Casanova who pleases women in bed and disappoints them everywhere else, but Huszárik doesn’t force a redemptive arc on his lothario. “Women were good to me because they didn’t love me — never,” he says in what’s half a lament, half an introspective statement of fact.
Despite such lines making it clear that his hero isn’t above feeling sorry for himself, Huszárik never turns Szindbád into a pity party for the ladies’ man. His experiential, at times experimental approach cuts from Szindbád discussing his venison preferences with a waiter to lines like “It is the fate of the stars to fall from Heaven for each other.”
Lyrical though such passages may be, the greatest pleasures here are sensory, with arresting cutaways to flora, fauna, and worn photographs giving the impression of a surreal forerunner to the likes of Terrence Malick and Werner Herzog. A segment in which two women dance in the woods with no diegetic sound is particularly dreamy, as is a haunting final sequence involving a church organ droning on as a vital organ beats its final beat.
Directed by Zoltán Huszárik
Opens June 10, Spectacle Theater
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 8, 2016