A Tanú: Daring, caustic comedy, but the stateside DVD’s a “magyar narancs”

[Screenshot]This one’s actually quite brilliant. It’s humorous on several levels, from the quasi-slapsticky to poking fun at the real-world political situation. The only other film I know of to accomplish such effectively multifaceted political humor is Dr. Strangelove. Of course, Dr. Strangelove had the good fortune to come from a nation where freedom of speech was valued (some times more than others, but generally we have an OK record in that regard), and where the political situation was dark and needed lightening. A Tanú‘s misfortune is that it was censored pretty much immediately on release (even in the tolerant atmosphere of the reformed Kádár government, it struck a bit close to home), but it makes up for that by finding such brilliant humor. ’60’s America was looking threatening and dire; Hungary passed through threatening and dire and come out the other side as farce. There’s a reason almost every Hungarian film is a dark comedy, and this one shines as an example of the genre.

So much for the good, which is the film itself. The bad is almost all this particular release of the film. I hate to slag DreamQuest films, because they honestly seem to care about Hungarian film preservation, but their design needs a little work. Two big suggestions: make a combined bilingual menu, instead of having the top-level menu be a language suggestion, and for God’s sake make sure you get the subtitles working. On films being sold to an audience that speaks the film’s native language, subtitles are an appreciated bonus; on foreign films they’re raised to the level of an absolute necessity, which means you really have to get it right. The idiom translation is workmanlike, but I can roll with that (and I wouldn’t know the right idioms from the wrong ones anyways), but the consistent misspellings show a lack of attention to detail, and the real dealbreaker’s the subtitles which are either unterminated (so they remain on the screen obscuring others) or terminated immediately (so they only remain on the screen for a single frame). I don’t know the technical specifications of a subtitle track, so I don’t know the particular errors here, but they’re ones which should be avoidable.

See also: IMDB, DreamQuest films.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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