Tender Son -- The Frankenstein Project -- Film Review



CANNES -- One wonders what the grand poobahs at the Cannes Film Festival were thinking when they chose "Tender Son -- The Frankenstein Project," a disastrously bad Hungarian film, for the competition. It's pokey and pretentious, and all character motivations, which are often contradictory if not ridiculously illogical, seem based on the film's symbolic needs rather than on real-life psychological desires. One is hard pressed to imagine a commercial life, even in ancillary markets, for such a misbegotten project.
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Speaking of projects, the intention behind the film announced in its subtitle, something having to do with Frankenstein, is one more thing that doesn't work, even if you think about it for a long time.

The film opens with a long-take on director Mundruczo, who plays himself. Chatting ostentatiously on his cell phone about his philosophy of filmmaking, first with a colleague and then with an interviewer, he is heading toward an abandoned building where he is auditioning his new film.

A strange young man appears but doesn't seem to understand the difference between acting and real-life (a potentially rich theme that remains undeveloped), and when another would-be actor approaches him for a kiss, he murders her. There's an old crone living in the building who turns out to be his mother, and further revelations are forthcoming concerning the identity of his father. Several other characters are killed by Rudi (the teenage Frankenstein) along the way, all of whom picturesquely display bright red blood against a starkly white wall or a dense field of dazzlingly white snow.

Most of the shots in the film are examples of the kind of camera technique that has recently begun to populate too many films from Eastern Europe: people stare blankly at each other, in completely unrealistic ways, then perhaps utter one line of dialogue that has been so "prepared for" that it can't possibly carry all the weight it's asked to.

During the auditions a couple of interesting ideas are broached as, for example, when the director asks his prospective cast to cry on demand, thus exploring the difference between reality and its representation on film. These promising themes aren't followed up on either. Rudi, despite the murder he has committed, decides he wants to marry a girl named Magda, who's living with his mother, and everybody seems happy with that very bad idea. The symbolic scene becomes inadvertently funny when his mother irons her old wedding dress for Magda while wearing the bridal veil. On the other hand, there's a lovely, all too brief moment, in which Magda and Rudi luxuriate in the peach halves they sensuously eat from a can.

The climax of the film comes when Rudi's father takes him into the snow-covered mountains, presumably to return him to the orphanage where he was originally dumped after his inconvenient birth. An accident occurs because the driver can't find his sunglasses in the glove compartment, a surprisingly banal plot point in a movie so ponderously laden with overtly symbolic action.
Venue: Cannes Film Festival -- Competition
Production Companies: Proton Cinema, Essential Filmproduktion, Filmpartners, KCP Kranzelbinder Gabriele Production
Cast: Rudolf Frecska, Kornel Mundruczo, Lili Monori, Kitty Csikos
Director: Kornel Mundruczo
Screenwriters: Kornel Mundruczo, Yvette Biro
Producers: Viktoria Petranyi, Susanne Marian, Philippe Bober, Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Gabor Kovacs
Director of photography: Matyas Erdely
Production designer: Marton Agh
Music: Phillip E. Kumpel, Andreas Moisa, Gyorgy Kurtag, Peter Zombola
Costume designer: Janos Breckl
Editor: David Jancso
Sales: Coproduction Office
No rating, 105 minutes