Pick a side

Miklós Jancsó’s ‘The Red and the White’ tangles with the absurdity of war in the year’s best home video collection

Courtesy: Kino Lorber

The year is 1918, and Red troops are rounding up the White guards. War is on, and the insurgents are to be executed. But as the victors take their time playing by the rules of engagement, a fresh batch of White soldiers ride in and take the Red troops hostage. Their control doesn’t last long. Nothing does in The Red and the White.

Made in 1967, the feature by Hungarian filmmaker Miklós Jancsó is an absurdist take on warfare through the lens of the 1917 Soviet revolution. Borders are abstract; loyalties, too. A fistful of nationalities — Armenian, Cossack, Georgian, Hungarian and Russian — provide some grounding, but trying to keep track of who is who and which side is winning is the whole point. 

Cinematographer Tamás Somló films everything in long, bravura tracking shots with characters constantly told to come here, go there, run away, come back, stand up and sit down. Soldiers on foot stalk other soldiers. Riders on horses chase the soldiers. Biplanes overhead shoot at the riders and the running soldiers. It’s all chaos. And no matter which side has the upper hand, you can always see another battalion in the background coming for their turn at the top. You won’t have to squint hard to find parallels to present political situations. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic.

The Soviets commissioned The Red and the White to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution, but Jancsó’s film never screened in Russia. Watch it, and there’s little surprise as to why. The 1960s were a charged time politically and artistically, and filmmakers were pushing every boundary they found. New waves were crashing across Europe, and Jancsó was at the crest.

That’s what makes Kino Lorber’s newly released Miklós Jancsó Collection all the more exciting. Six feature films, all restored from the original camera negatives by the National Film Institute Hungary – Film Archive, alongside seven shorts and a bevy of commentaries provide a master class in the increasingly overlooked cinema of Jancsó. It’s an outstanding set, perfect for the movie lover in your life.

ON SCREEN: Miklós Jancsó Collection, available now on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

Other 2022 home video releases for the holidays

Streaming services have changed the game in more ways than we can count. But the continued fracturing of platforms and the constant shuffle of studio catalogs have turned discovery into a closed-loop system. It’s more difficult — not to mention expensive — for adventurous moviegoers to find something new.

The answer: home video. Buy the movie once and never worry about increased membership fees or the movie vanishing from one service only to pop up on something new.

Looking for something for the movie lover in your life this holiday season? Kino Lorber’s Miklós Jancsó Collection on Blu-ray is a great place to start. And while we’re talking stock stuffers, here are five more 2022 home video releases sure to impress:

  • The Godfather Trilogy — Two masterpieces from the 1970s and one ill-advised sequel from 1990 about a mafia family. Released by Paramount Pictures on 4K UHD.
  • The Piano — 1993’s Palme d’Or winner somehow looks even lusher and more erotic in this digital restoration. Released by The Criterion Collection in a 4K UHD and Blu-ray set.
  • The Tales of Hoffmann — This dreamy, three-strip Technicolor adaptation of Jacques Offenbach’s opera might be the pinnacle of the composed film. Released by The Criterion Collection on Blu-ray.
  • Touch of Evil — The 1958 butchered masterpiece of police corruption in a border town gets restored and presented in three different versions, all worth watching. Released by Kino Lorber on 4K UHD.
  • El Vampiro Negro — The almost lost 1953 Argentinian noir of a compulsive child killer breathes new life in this sparkling restoration. Released by Flicker Alley in a Blu-ray/DVD set.