‘Turin Horse’ among latest foreign Oscar entries

Posted by · 7:18 am · September 4th, 2011

This news has been hanging around for a few days, but amid the Venice hubbub, I haven’t found a moment to post it until today — though we did address it briefly in Friday’s Oscar Talk. With less than a month to go until the deadline, the pile of official submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar is slowly growing — and the most prominent of them is a title I already reviewed at February’s Berlinale.

That film would be Béla Tarr’s “The Turin Horse,” which won the runner-up Grand Prix at the festival and just screened at Telluride this weekend, and which I described as “a stately, granite-textured and altogether rather tremendous” work in the famously austere director’s canon. Hungary has a history of choosing ballsy and utterly doomed Oscar submissions — “Taxidermia,” anyone? — but this is the first time they’ve dared to enter a Tarr opus.

I’d be tempted to call it a similarly noble but hopeless choice — I have no doubt that the foreign-language branch’s regular votership will be left mostly bewildered by its real-time monochrome study of potato-boiling, among other delights — but for the sway of the executive committee, which has been doing its best to shake up the process with some left-field choices of late. In this post-“Dogtooth” Oscar age, I’m never going to say never, but I’m sceptical nonetheless.

Elsewhere, a presumably tight selection process has resulted in Sundance-awarded comedy “Happy, Happy” beating critically-admired Cannes entry “Oslo, 31 August” to the honor of being Norway’s submission. The film, which I haven’t seen yet, hits US screens later this month, charts the light sexual infidelities between two neighboring couples; it sounds popular enough in appeal to potentially score with the Academy, though a racially-themed subplot has raised an eyebrow ior two among certain reviewers.

Austria has stuck with the Cannes theme and picked one of the more well-received films (I’m afraid I didn’t see it) from the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar: “Breathing,” the debut feature of veteran actor Karl Markovics, is a solemn drama about an 18 year-old juvenile detention center inmate who takes a job in a mortuary in the hope of being granted parole. Austria scored twice in this category recently with “The Counterfeiters” and “Revanche” — and this year’s hopeful shares a DP, the excellent (and excellently named) Martin Gschlacht, with the latter, so maybe that’s a good omen.

The Dutch, meanwhile, are treading on Poland’s toes this year by going down the tried-and-tested Holocaust-drama route — okay, not strictly so, since “Sonny Boy” is a decades-spanning interracial romance that only apparently culminates with the rise of Nazism, but you take my point. If there’s only room for one film incorporating that era — not that Academy members are always that frugal with their favorite themes — I’d keep my money on the Sony Pictures Classics release directed by Agnieszka Holland.

Finally, two films that have entered the race since my last update are South Korea’s period action film “The Front Line” and Serbia’s true-life football drama “Montevideo, God Bless You!.” Neither sounds a particular threat to score a first-ever nomination for their countries, but if you know otherwise, please enlighten us in the comments.

We’ll have a separate page tracking the submissions shortly.

[Photo: The Cinema Guild]


→ 12 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

12 responses so far

  • 1 9-04-2011 at 7:28 am

    Michael said...

    Just want to say that Taxidermia is one of my favorite films and I had no idea it was submitted for best foreign film – knowing that only makes me like that movie that much more. I’ve also recently discovered “Confessions” – which was submitted by Japan last year and made it into the top 9 in the foreign film bake-off – and if anyone wants to see something challenging, definitely check out that one. Good for these countries for trying to shake it up and put out films like “Turin Horse” that are completely opposite of the more narrow-minded reach of the recent winners amongst the foreign language film category. As you said in the article, after “Dogtooth”, who knows? Hopefully this is the sign of a more well-balanced group of films to be chosen in the future.

  • 2 9-04-2011 at 9:47 am

    Brock Landers said...

    “I’ve also recently discovered “Confessions” – which was submitted by Japan last year and made it into the top 9 in the foreign film bake-off – and if anyone wants to see something challenging, definitely check out that one. ”

    I thought that was an interesting, but terribly paced film. A lot of that had to do with the fact that nearly the entire film was in slow motion. There was already enough substance, there was no need to amp up the style to the degree that they did.

  • 3 9-04-2011 at 9:54 am

    will said...

    It seems incredible that South Korea has never had a nomination, but I suppose the movies South Korea is producing to acclaim aren’t really in The Academy’s wheelhouse.

    I don’t know much about Happy, Happy so my opinion means nothing but I was hoping for Oslo to get that nod. I am such a massive fan of Trier’s Reprise and am hoping Oslo gets a U.S. release.

  • 4 9-04-2011 at 10:53 am

    Robert said...

    Most of what I’ve heard of The Turin Horse focuses on the seriousness of it all without saying if it has any of the dark absurdity that sprung up in Satantango and Werckmeister Harmonies.

    I’m not saying that that would endear it more to Academy voters. But it does help to breakup the drudgery in Tarr’s movies (and I mean “drudgery” in the best way possible)

  • 5 9-04-2011 at 11:29 am

    Ivan said...

    “Montevideo, God Bless You!”

    Trailer here:

  • 6 9-04-2011 at 11:40 am

    James D. said...

    Taxidermia has stuck with me much longer than I could have imagined.

    I am sure The Turin Horse will be great. Does it have a domestic release this year?

  • 7 9-04-2011 at 12:23 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Robert: As I write in my review, I think there’s a strain of self-parody to The Turin Horse that not all critics see in it.

  • 8 9-05-2011 at 12:33 am

    Sergiu said...

    If I’m not mistaken The Turin Horse is the only Hungarian movie of the year so that wasn’t much of a chose. (anyway the only one released so far)

    And that movie has no chance to get a nomination. I really liked the movie, but that kind of movies don’t get any nominations.

  • 9 9-05-2011 at 1:36 am

    PJ said...

    I caught “Breathing” at the local film festival and came away very impressed. Incredibly controlled and tight, with the subtlest agitation driving it. The cinematography, amongst other things, was quite brilliant. Not sure about its Oscar chances given its placidity, but Austria picked a very good film in its own right.

  • 10 9-05-2011 at 3:08 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    And that movie has no chance to get a nomination. I really liked the movie, but that kind of movies don’t get any nominations.

    As I say in the article, I agree in theory — but then, that’s exactly what I would have said about Dogtooth last year. The ways of the executive committee are strange and powerful.

  • 11 9-05-2011 at 5:01 am

    Sergiu said...

    I haven’t seen Dogtooth, so don’t know about that, but I can’t imagine it driving so many people to boredom.
    At The Turin Horse more than half of the theater was empty at the end.( From a full theater at the beginning )

    I hope that this will get some recognition from AMPAS, but I doubt that this will get any recognition outside of film festivals.

  • 12 9-05-2011 at 9:01 pm

    Glenn said...

    I want this to happen so much! I mean, yeah, the movie is quite excellent and all that, but I just want people to walk into this movie (or sit down to watch it at home) and be completely confused as to what they’re watching.