Color, 1971, 90m.
Directed by Zoltan Huszárik
Starring Zoltan Latinovits, Eva Ruttkai, Eva Leelossy, Dayka Margit, Anna Nagy
Second Run (UK R0 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Absurdly difficult to see in an English-friendly version for decades, this visually intoxicating meditation on indulgence and excess from late Hungarian director Zoltan Huszarik (who only directed one other feature) adapts its titular character name from Sinbad, an ancient legend which faintly echoes through the wanderings of its narrative. On his deathbed, the ailing Szindbad (Three Nights of Love's Latinovits who, like the director, committed suicide at an early age) reflects back on his randier days in the 1920s. Moving from one woman to the next, he finds himself unable to truly love any of them and succeeds in his seductions all the more because of it. From a snowy romance to a one-night stand saving a woman from suicide, he drifts from one to another (shown wildly out of chronological sequence) and reunites with many of them over the years as their fates all split in different directions, be it marriage or death.

Though not completely like any other film out there, Szindbad will at least be accessible to art house devotees who don't mind something that manages to recall Ken Russell and Luchino Visconti at the same time. Stunning landscape shots of fields and icescapes rub shoulders with jarring but colorful avant garde close ups of flowers, locks of hair, and congealing oil, while only brief snatches of dialogue manage to tie it all together to remind you this isn't an entirely visual experience. There's a fair amount of female nudity, though it's more artistic than erotic (including a memorable scene of outdoor exhibitionism); more surprisingly, there are no sex scene per se, only a few romantic idylls and suggestive poses. The film was adapted from the works of surrealist writer Gyula Krudy, renowned in Hungary but little-known elsewhere due to the extreme difficulty in translating his prose. If it's anything like the film, though, it must be a heady concoction indeed.

Second Run has already proven itself as one of the UK's most valuable cinematic resources thanks to its treasure trove of rediscoveries on DVD, and Szindbad is another jewel in their crown. The transfer looks terrific throughout and really packs a wallop from the opening montage of fragmented close ups, which burst with a riotous array of hues and textures. Every shot is note-perfect, and had the transfer been any less impressive, the film would suffer mightily for it. Definitely recommended, and the next best thing to seeing a mint print projected in a theater (unless Second Run makes the leap to Blu-Ray someday down the road). The optional English subtitles are newly translated and appear to be well-written and accurate as far as they appear, while the mono audio is clear and atmospheric throughout. The sole video extra is a video featurette with British director Peter Strickland (Katalin Varga) offering his own glowing 12-minute appraisal for the film; before watching, it might be advisable to also read the liner notes booklet by film historian Michael Brooke, who does a laudable job of discussing the literary source material, explaining the implications of the main character's name, and even mentioning an earlier 300-page(!) draft of the screenplay. Obviously a must for any film adventurer who enjoys hunting for new treasure.

Reviewed on 6/30/11