Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
DIFF ’16: Demimonde
a prostitute is as successful as Elza Mágnás, they call her a courtesan. For a
scandalous woman in 1910 Budapest, she had done quite well for herself. She
landed a wealthy sugar-daddy who kept her in comfort, but her mercenary
ruthlessness would ultimately be her undoing. The events leading up to Mágnás’s
violent end are chronicled in Attila Szász’s Demimonde (trailer
screens during the 2016 Dallas International Film Festival.
When Kató Szebeni applies for an
assistant maid position, she expects something more like Downton Abbey than Fanny
Hill. The dynamic between the housekeeper, Rózsi Kóbori and their mistress,
Mágnás, is conspicuously tense, but the virtuous young woman is decidedly
impressed by her dinner guest, the romantic poet, Gergely Sóvágó. It seems the
lady of the house has been cheating on her benefactor, Max Schmidt, with the
ardent young man. This particularly offends Kóbori, who knew both Mágnás and
Schmidt when their circumstances were drastically different.
was a time when Mágnás and Kóbori were both “hostesses” working at the “supper
club” run by Cili Mama. Both spent quality time with Schmidt, but Mágnás
managed to hook him. She now takes sadistic pleasure in reminding Kóbori how
greatly their fortunes have diverged. Yet, the resentful housekeeper takes
liberties few servants would be allowed. Obviously, the naïve Szebeni is
unprepared for such a hothouse atmosphere, so Mágnás takes her under her wing,
knowing full well it will only increase Kóbori’s bitterness.
Demimonde is like the
classiest Danielle Steel story ever. It is just brimming with cattiness and
sexual betrayal, yet it always looks like a Merchant-Ivory production. Frankly,
it is rather baffling that it has not been picked up by a specialty distributor
yet, because it is wildly commercial, at least by the standards of Hungarian
cinema. Patricia Kovács and Dorka Gryllus give no quarter as the former
friends, whereas Laura Döbrösi gives real emotional heft and dimension to
Szebeni’s wide-eyed innocence. Watching the resulting friction is quite
András Nagy’s cinematography
is suitably lush, while Gergely Parádi’s anachronistic electronic soundtrack
conveys the hedonistic recklessness of Mágnás’ world. It is an erotically charged
film that also happens to be smart and richly realized. Highly recommended for
patrons of mature costume dramas, Demimonde
screens this coming Tuesday (4/19) and Wednesday (4/20), as part of the
Dallas International Film Festival.
Labels: DIFF '16, Hungarian Cinema