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Publication: The Stranger
Author: Mudede, Charles
Date published: April 8, 2010


One of the stars of Béla Tarr's slow, heavy, and architectural murder mystery The Man from London is the art-house queen Tilda Swinton. In 2006, Swinton gave a speech at the San Francisco International Film Festival that throws considerable light on the greatness of not only Tarr's new film but also any film that strives to achieve the condition of cinema-which is very different from the condition of literature, photography, music, and theater (the arts that become one in cinema): "Can I be alone in my longing for inarticulacy, for a cinema that refuses to join all the dots? For an arrhythmia in gesture, for a dissonance in shape?... The figurative cinema's awkward and rather unsavory relationship with its fruity old aunt, the theater, to her vanities, her... perennially eloquent speechifying, her cast-iron, corsetlike structures, her melodramatic texture, and her histrionic rhythms. How tiresome it is; it always has been." This is precisely the essence of The Man from London: There is no acting in it, no speechifying but just a series of sculptural faces, stark streets, dark waters, strange boats in the mist, dirty windows, dusty floors, heavy overcoats, thick boots, and rickety chairs. There is, however, one aspect of theater that dominates this film: set design. This aspect of theater is amplified to the point that the beams in a room are more musical than physical. True, The Man from London is not Tarr's best film, but it is pure art house. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Northwest Film Forum, Thurs Apr 8 at 8 pm.

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