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Prefab People

Bela Tarr    NR (Not Rated)   DVD

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Product Description

From the Studio

Shot in a gritty documentary style, Bela Tarr's third film is a relentlessly realistic portrait of a young working-class couple suffering the everyday stresses of marriage. Beginning with a terrible argument between husband and wife, Tarr subsequently examines the minute details of his character's lives to see what brought them to this moment. Profound and disturbing, Prefab People is "the best of Tarr's early forays into Cassavetes-style social realism" (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader). In Hungarian with Englis h Bela Tarr---Hungary---1982---80 mins.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Tarr Crystalizes a Theme Aug. 4 2008
By Eileen Corder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Shot in glorious black and white, this little gem of a film is definitely on a par with Tarr's later work. Caught in a town filled with smokestacks and a maze of project-like housing, the dysfunctional marriage of a young working class couple becomes a metaphor for the problems of modern (1982) Hungarian society and the consumerist world in general. Weaving the sights and sounds of families, beer halls, beauty shops and routine, The Prefab People reveals an earlier Tarr: simple, short and to the point with Herzog/documentary-type images, including a man who plays his lips as if they were a clarinet.

Superb performances by real-life partners, Judit Pogany and Robert Koltai, trick one into feeling like a voyeur. In public and in private, they deal with the stark reality of their seemingly dead end existence. Fights and disappointments, loneliness and a shallow thinness of life fill the screen in painfully long close-ups. A good amount of (mostly live) music adds to the mix. The closing image, the one you see on the cover with the couple riding in the back of a pickup with their newly purchased Minimat 65 washer, glues the episodes of break-up back together with what money can buy. Tarr uses the film's 75 minutes to construct a single movement that revolves on and on, ending at the beginning, churning up the clothes of life in a futile attempt to once and for all get out the dirt... or have we simply arrived in hell for good?
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tarr channels Jost and Cassavettes. April 15 2010
By Robert Beveridge - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
The Prefab People (Bela Tarr, 1982)

In 1987, the filmmaker Bela Tarr and the novelist Laszlo Krasznahorkai teamed up for Karozhat, and the result was critical magic, blasting both of them onto the international stage in a partnership that lasts to this day. I don't think it's overstating the case to compare it to the partnership between Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond, except that where Diamond was a comedic master, Krasznahorkai excels at existential despair. In any case, what some people forget is that before the two paired up, both Tarr and Krasznahorkai were prolific in their chosen disciplines; it's just that no one had heard of them outside Hungary. Tarr's pre-Krasznahorkai films are slowly being discovered by the west, and the first one to be readily available is 1982's Panelkapcsolat, or The Prefab People.

As you might expect from the title, this is an overtly political film, far more so than even Satantango, but in that Tarr fashion, he's more interested in the effects of politics on one intimate scene than he is on an entire nation (think Makavejev, for example, as a filmmaker obsessed with the latter). In this case, the scene is a modest Hungarian family who live in a large city. Dad (Memories of a River's Robert Koltai) is a typical office drone-cum-slacker whose greatest desire is for the kind of freedom one finds in, well, Makavejev films (actually, for some reason, I saw him the whole time as a transplanted character from Zabriskie Point, though for the life of me I can't tell you why that is). His wife (Vacsora's Judit Pogany) feels (and is) put-upon, being left to take care of their two young children while dad goes out and carouses. It's also Tarr in that it's essentially plotless; the two drift through their lives fighting, making passionless love, putting on a facade of being together while at the same time actually being horribly alone, even while in the same bed.

The comparisons to Cassavettes are obvious here (and I don't know why I never drew the comparison between Tarr and Cassavettes until now), but Tarr feels existential angst on a level Cassavettes was never quite able to reach; in this, he reminds me a lot more of Jon Jost, that purveyor of the truly bleak. Also, it often feels to me that watching one of Cassavettes' monumental indie flicks from the sixties is as much an endurance test as it is a film; Faces seems to go on forever. The Prefab People has that same air of the uncomfortable, but like all of Tarr's films, it just flew by for me (and this is the shortest Tarr film I've seen, clocking in at just seventy-six minutes), buoyed by Tarr's dry humor and ear for dialogue. Those who are used to his new style of filmmaking will be very surprised at the lack of seemingly endless pan shots, but because of that, this may be the most accessible Tarr movie I've seen to date for the Tarr novice. Introduce your friends to Bela Tarr with this movie, and then hit them with Satantango. *** 
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spilt Blood Of The Dead May 14 2008
By RHC - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Exhaustive, claustrophobic, circular, discordant, hopeless, weeping, wailing, and a gnashing of teeth, Tarr's camera work and photo direction is powerful (especially during the dance when the wife is sitting, and sitting, and sitting, quietly repressing her pent-up frustrations...), a must-watch short film for Bela Tarr fans.

Though in caves pursued he lie,
Even then he fears attacks.
Coming forth the land to spy,
Even a home he finds he lacks.
Mountain, vale - go where he would,
Grief and sorrow all the same -
Underneath a sea of blood,
While above a sea of flame.

`Neath the fort, a ruin now,
Joy and pleasure erst were found,
Only groans and sighs, I trow,
In its limits now abound.
But no freedom's flowers return
From the spilt blood of the dead,
And the tears of slavery burn,
Which the eyes of orphans shed.
2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Prefab people Oct. 11 2005
By Kresimir Godina - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Kind of film that is very hard to find in modern production. Brillant!

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