DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
MY 20TH CENTURY (AZ EN XX SZAZADOM) (director/writer: Ildiko Enyedi; cinematographer: Tibor Mathe; editor: Maria Rigo; music: Laszlo Vidovszky; cast: Dorotha Segda (Dóra / Lili / Mother Anya), Oleg Yankowski (Z), Paulus Manker (Weininger), Peter Andorai (Thomas Alva Edison), Gábor Máté (X), Gyula Kery (ékszerész); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Archy Dolder; Aries Films; 1989-Hungary/West Germany/Cuba-in Hungarian with English subtitles)

 
"Never excited me with its whimsical story."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

It won the Best First Feature prize at Cannes. Female filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi ("Magic Hunter") is writer-director of this b/w shot intellectual feminist period film that in a dreamlike way explores both technology and the roles of women in the ever-changing society of the 20th century. It's a muddled production that is heavy-handed and never excited me with its whimsical story, its not too well-conceived political notions, its half-baked ideas and the gimmicky factor of having Polish actress Dorotha Segda play the part of the twins and, in a cameo, their mother. I just never caught the fever of this fable's allegorical rapture and its clever attempts at pulp and being chic just left me weary. What it lacks is a coherent, well thought-out and compelling story.

It opens as Thomas Edison introduces the light-bulb in Menlo Park, N.J., in 1880. Coincidentally, in Budapest, that same night, twin girls named Lili and Dora are born to Anya (Dorotha Segda, plays all three parts). The twins are separated at an early age while selling matches in the streets of Budapest and are adopted by different families, one rich and the other poor, and grow up to lead different lives--Lili, from the poor family, becomes an idealistic revolutionary anarchist and Dora a hedonistic seductress whore working the Orient Express and ships. The girls will meet again at 20 on a train, but not be aware of each other as Lili sits in a car filled with the lower-class types and sis prowls the ritzy dining car looking for customers. The girls are courted separately by a mysterious stranger named Z (Oleg Yankowski, Russian actor), who is confused as he doesn't realize he's met identical twins until later on. Many years later at the climax, where Lili is traveling with bombs to eliminate the minister of the interior, she encounters in another compartment her long-lost sister, a kept mistress of a wealthy man, and the women affectionately reunite.

It's like an arty film-making exercise that wishes to impress with dazzling images and meaningful arcane symbolic messages, which is rewarding at times because it induces movie magic. But it still stalls because those rich visuals don't transfer into a movie that goes much beyond its diverting premise.

REVIEWED ON 7/2/2010       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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