Almanac of Fall

Movie Information

In Brief: I am quite certain that after watching The Turin Horse (2011) I swore I would never get suckered into sitting through another film by the Hungarian master of molasses-slow miserablism, Béla Tarr. Well, somehow I went back on that — partly out of curiosity to see what Mr. Tarr would do with color in his only non-black-and-white movie Almanac of Fall (1984). I will say that the film’s use of color is interesting and creative, though I doubt if Tarr’s use of colored gels actually means anything. It is, however, undeniably sinister. Technically, the film is well made and the direction is solid, but whether you’d actually enjoy the results or merely be relieved when the movie stops is another matter. For fans only. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Almanac of Fall Friday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 273-3332,
Genre: Drama
Director: Béla Tarr
Starring: Hédi Temessy, Enka Bodnár, Miklós Székely, Pál Hétenyi, János Derzsi
Rated: NR



Admirers of the films of Béla Tarr insist that his work is among the greatest of the greats and that his profundity is the last word in profound. Well, if you measure these things in terms of crushing depressiveness, unrelenting nihilism, and a pace so slow that fungus could grow on it, then all this is true. It strikes me as imitation Bergman — with extra helpings of misery and no sense of humanity. I was introduced to Tarr’s work through Werckmeister Harmonies (2000), which I actually kind of liked — with the proviso that I’d never want to see it again. Then came the punishing 450 minutes of Satantango (1994), which I refused to give a star rating and which is about as much fun as you’d expect seven-and-a-half-hours of muddy mulligrubbing to be. After slogging through The Turin Horse (2011) — ostensibly Mr. Tarr’s final film — I swore off, but was tempted back when Almanac of the Fall (1984) came my way. Not only is it Tarr’s only color film, but it had a reasonable 119 minute running time.




I can’t say I connected with  Almanac of Fall any better than I did with Tarr’s other films, but I did find it more interesting from a technical standpoint. Tarr doesn’t just shoot in color, he shoots with color. The film has a distinctive look attained mostly through using colored lighting to — on the whole — split the frame into a shade of orange (representing autumn?) and an icky green that’s rather like looking through a dirty aquarium. This is augmented by placing floor-level white lighting behind furniture to accentuate the set’s sagging wallpaper. There is also occasional extra lighting on — or in — porclelain fixtures (like the bathtub) imbuing them with an unsettling glow. (David Lynch used this same effect in one scene in Mulholland Drive.) It may mean nothing, but it certainly adds to the movie’s overall disturbing atmosphere. There’s also an interesting scene where Tarr taps into his inner Busby Berkeley (in “Lullaby of Broadway” mode) shoots a scuffle through a glass floor. In other words, I found this more intriguing technically than most of his stuff. But beyond that…it’s more of the same. In short, it’s a couple hours spent in the company of unhappy people you’d probably prefer not to know.

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Almanac of Fall Friday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 273-3332,

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.