(There was our young cabdriver who, late one evening when his wrist alarm went off, pulled the cab to one side of a narrow, snowbanked street, asked our permission, and took us into a theater to watch his young actress-wife rehearse for the political cabaret-satire. There is also the story of my three friends at Budapest's oldest synagogue, and the minyan, but no room for that here.)
In Berlin, which must be the most brilliantly glowing city short of Tokyo, there is politeness and correctness everywhere, but outside of some memorably seditious members on our jury, no discernible lightness anywhere except from our charming festival secretary. She, it turns out, is Swiss.
Not a word about the films? Many words about the films, many of them said at a--to us quite extraordinary--meeting with all the foreign press, the heads of the five film studios that operate under MAFILM (the Hungarian film distributing company) and many of the leading directors. By now, more than half the films have been seen, and the impression is not cheerful. There are exceptions: Laszlo Lugossy's burning "Flowers of Reverie," a historically set film drama whose message could not be more contemporary, as a sane dissident is locked away in an asylum. (It was to be Hungary's entry at Berlin, where it won the jury, or second, prize); Szabo's "Colonel Redl," an obvious foreign and Hungarian favorite; Gazdag's "The Package Tour," a wrenching documentary that follows a busload of Hungarian Auschwitz survivors on their first visit back to the camp, 40 years later, and the piquant and arresting first feature, "The Philadelphia Attraction" by Peter Gardoas, about a celebrated and retired circus performer and a tenacious young one. (Both "Flowers" and "Package Tour" will be part of a Hungarian film series at UCLA's Melnitz Hall April 2 at 7:30 p.m.) But by and large, the reaction is that this year's crop is "poor." One visitor goes so far as to declare "a crisis in Hungarian film."