(TORONTO, ON) – Possibly the best film of the year. The Toronto Jewish Film Festival brings the Hungarian Budapest Noir to the GTA. Delicious and rich cinematography and costume design. Not only that, it is a dandy murder mystery.
Think of it as shot in an updated film noir style.
Zsigmond Gordon, superbly played by Kolovratník Krisztián, is a gritty reporter covering the crime beat in 1936 Budapest. That was the year Hungarian prime minister Gyala Gömbös died. He had once boasted to Hermann Göring, with the fascist know how he picked up in Germany, that he would become a dictator and transform Hungary.
Gordon stops in after work for a drink at a bistro and notices a beautiful woman finishing her dinner. She approaches him at his table and asks for a light for her cigarette and then leaves. The waiter then brings Gordon the bill and the woman had said Gordon would pick up the tab.
Shortly after, he waits in the Chief of Police’s office and snoops through his desk drawers. He finds a file with a picture of the women from the restaurant. He’s told by the chief that a murder had recently been committed in the red light district and the victim is the woman from the restaurant. The coroner informs Gordon she was beaten to death and was two months pregnant.
Gordon does a bit of investigating and learns from Budapest’s biggest pimp that the woman was in his employ. She was beautiful and classy and a favourite of men of Hungary’s Upper Chamber of the legislature.
The reporter then talks with a nudes photographer who admits having taken pictures of the murdered woman. Gordon turns his back and is knocked unconscious. He awakes later to find the photographer’s throat had been slit.
The police chief warns Gordon to dig no further or he will be arrested for the murder of the photographer. He keeps on investigating, however, and is badly beaten by a group of men who also warn him that he should not be snooping around.
Someone very powerful is getting nervous. Could it be a high-ranking fascist?
I won’t tell you the ending, but there are subtle hints throughout the movie about the growing tide of fascism and anti-Semitism in Hungary, so the film is interesting from an historical perspective.
Based on the novel by Vilmos Condor.
(Budapest Noir, 2017, Hungary, director Eva Gárdos, Hungarian with English subtitles, 95 minutes. part of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, screened May 7 and 11)