food in the arts




Dir: Péter Bacsó/narr/narr: László Zsolt, z/m: Vukán György, v/ed: Miklós Mari, h/sd: Juhász Róbert,Hungary/2006/103mins
Péter Bacsó’s new film, The Lumnitzer Sisters guides us to the grotesque world of restaurants and restaurant reviewers. Róbert Alföldi and Péter Rudolf, who play the two „sisters”, are on a crusade against botched restaurateurs in the name of quality.

Distributed by Hungarotop and produced by Hunnia Filmstúdió and Tivoli Filmprodukció, the film follows the misadventures of two very incisive food critics played by Róbert Alföldi and Péter Rudolf. Compared by the filmmaker to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the first critic is a famous dreamer searching for erotic experiences, while the latter lives a more down-to-earth existence with a family of five kids. Hiding behind the pseudonym "Lumnitzer Sisters", the two journalists make enemies among the restaurateurs, who counterattack by engaging a young woman (played by Barbara Hegyi) to unmask the two obstacles to their cuisine. The hunt is on as the film skirts along the line between comedy and drama.
An adaptation of a book written by the director, Who are the Lumnitzer Sisters? is also testament to the artistic longevity of Péter Bacsó, who is 78 and won awards in San Sebastian in 1967 and Locarno in 1971.

filmhu:Do the Lumnitzer sisters have anything in common with the Wittman boys, the restaurant reviewers of the daily Népszabadság?

B.P.: They gave me the basic idea. I was touched by the extraordinary irony of their writings – writing about food is in a sense metaphoric, it tells the truth and scourges the amateurish, the colour-blind,  the deaf. No wonder restaurateurs hated the Wittman boys so fiercely. Some have even taken them to court because of their reviews. They rejoiced when one of the boys left for the U.S. and the column was cancelled.

filmhu:How did you decide which restaurants should be featured in the film? 

B.P.: I wanted to present a wide selection of restaurants in the film – we shot in ten or twelve restaurants altogether. A different type of scene takes place in each of them – all sorts of places starting with  the small joint with a checquered tablecloth. We even have a fish restaurant in the film, which is not really a restaurant, but the enormous fish tank of the Campona shopping mall, in front of which we put a restaurant set where our heroes dine scallop in sauce provençal. Of course, we had to convince each owner to allow us to shoot in his restaurant. Some places ended up in the film using their real name.

filmhu:What made you feel that pairing Alföldi and Rudolf would work?

B.P.: Róbert Alföldi portrays a lonely bachelor, who keeps on daydreaming, and experiences extraordinary erotic adventures in his fantasies. Péter Rudolf is a more solid, down-to-earth character in the film – he is at home with five children and would love to get out. The two characters are autonomous, different, the opposites of each other in a sense, yet they belong together. My protagonists are the parallels of Don Quijote and Sancho Panza.

filmhu:To what extent are the Lumnitzer sisters typical Bacsó characters? 

B.P.: My best films from Tanú to Te rongyos élet all walk the thin line between comedy and tragedy  – this is what makes them different from most Hungarian movies. This film approaches the world from an ironic aspect. It does not take things too seriously, it is able to smile at even tragic situations.  The new element compared to my previous movies is the presence of dreams. I’ve been dreaming a lot lately, and I also read about it quite a lot. So far, I’ve felt uneasy about featuring  dreams in films, I thought it was a bit false. But now it fit Olivér’s character rather well, since he is an inhibited, timid bachelor, who is only able to move freely in his dreams. He walks the borderline between dream and reality – we don’t know for sure whether the ending of the film is a fantasy or real, either. That is how I tried to avoid the nauseating quality of a happy ending.

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