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Prizma (Prism) – Film Art Journal (founded in May 2009)

About the Journal

The founding editors of Prizma aim at contributing to the Hungarian film discourse with a journal devoted to the discussion of moving images and visual culture, undertaking a decidedly scholarly approach combined with a fresh choice of subjects, using a language more accessible than dry scientific jargon, consequently being able to reach a wider audience.

In addition, by launching Prizma, the editors intended to provide a forum of a high standard, at which young and promising university students with a considerable theoretical knowledge are able to publish the results of their researches. It is a deep-set conviction of the founders of the journal that these would-be scholars are the appropriate authors that may provide the tone and approach that might raise the attention of the readership interested in a serious-minded discussion of today’s film art.

Prizma has a thematic structure: around half of each issue discusses a given subject with lenghtier studies of 20-25,000 characters. The subjects are chosen by the editors, who aim at exploring directors, genres and theoretical matters that occupy a considerable place in the film art of today yet receive disappointingly little attention in the Hungarian press. The journal aspires to broaden the perspective of the Hungarian film discourse and to supply the needs of a readership that, due to its knowledge in mainstream genres and contemporary cinema, its interest in the progression of film and visual culture, considers certain themes worthier for profound discussion. The editors wish to explore subjects that oscillate between scientific and more popular regions, balance on the border of high-brow and low-brow culture, or discuss a field of subculture with a general cultural-theoretical approach. The planned subjects of Prizma are Hungarian Genre Film, Erotica and Pornography in FilmThe Cinema of Jim Jarmusch,Neo-westernComic Book Adaptations and Violence in the Cinema of the Far-East. Each issue features a translation of a study discussing the given subject, with an intention of bringing Hungarian and foreign theoretical texts closer to each other.

Besides the five or six studies devoted to the current subject, Prizma has permanent columns. The journal intends to devote special attention to short films and experimental movies, owing to the conviction that the works belonging to these categories do not receive their due attention in the Hungarian film press, and to the fact that the booming short film festival culture in the country calls for a more thorough exploration of the field. The column entitled K2 discusses short features, experimental films, music videos and commercials, exhibiting famous and significant creators, at times introducing promising Hungarian filmmakers with shorter texts of 10-12,000 characters. The on-line companion of the journal wishes to support this column with the short films themselves and interviews with the creators.

The column of Reviews endeavours to make use of a style and approach that can be evaluated as a counter-reaction to the boom of the somewhat superficial Internet reviews. The editors intend to employ a more analytical tone when discussing those contemporary films available in Hungarian cinemas that are deemed worthy of discussion by them. The column also features reviews of recent foreign and Hungarian theoretical works of the film discourse.

Prizma also wishes to discuss comic books in a more serious manner, since this field, suffering from an undeniable neglect in Hungary, is one that is constantly getting wider and wider attention in the global film discourse. It is a firm belief of the editors that a journal devoted to the circumspect analysis of contemporary cinema of a high standard has to take the field of comics seriously. In addition to publishing reviews and studies on canonized works of the Hungarian and foreign comics scene, Prizma also intends to publish works of promising Hungarian artists. With these purposes the editors propose to contribute to the popularisation of comic books that struggle to reach an adult audience with their impressive construction, the nature of which is close to the region of fine arts and literature.

The editors intend to make contact with Hungarian universities and also with foreign representatives of the field. For this reason, the most significant studies of Prizma will be available in English on the website of the journal. Hopefully, in the future, with the benefits provided by the Internet, a fruitful co-operation might be formulated between Prizma and the similar workshops of foreign countries.

The on-line companion of the journal available at http://www.prizmafolyoirat.com is devoted to discussing topics related to the subject of the given issue, as well as films and filmmakers that are significant yet perhaps receive little attention. With several daily updates, the website (featuring several pages of the printed issue itself) aspires to present the audience a wide range of subject matters, and also intends to open up a channel of communication between the editors and the readers. Hopefully, the on-line counterpart of Prizma will feature thought-provoking questions and videos that call for the reaction of the audience, this way bringing to life a two-way discussion of exciting issues that require thorough and multiple-sided interpretation.

The First Issue: David Cronenberg

The debut issue of Prizma discusses the ouvre of David Cronenberg. The abstracts of the studies devoted to the exploration of the director’s body of work, taking up the most part of the columns Subjectand K2, are featured below. The first issue also exhibits excerpts from the acclaimed volume Cronenberg on Cronenberg, selected and translated by Kata Kovács, an instalment of the screenplay of Crash, detailing the scene of the ill-famed James Dean crash, translated by Veronika Jakab, the first chapter of J. G. Ballard’s magnificent novel Crash, translated by Attila Varró. Closure to the K2 column is provided by Péter Lichter’s Retina Symphonies, an article drawing up the portrait of experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage. The Reviews section exhibits Zsuzsanna Tüske’s Sacrificial Victim, an in-depth discussion of Darren Aronofsky’s renowned The Wrestler, V. Gergő Nagy’s Face to Face, a thorough analysis of Viktor Oszkár Nagy’s debut film entitled Apaföld, and Gábor Roboz’s Mutation Strategy, a comprehensive scrutiny of Mark Browning’s book David Cronenberg: Author or Film-maker?. The illustrations of the first issue of Prizma are provided by talented comic book artist Tamás Bakó.


Máté  Pálos: How Long Does the ’New Flesh’ Live?: The Effect of Technology on Man in Cronenberg’s Videodrome and Crash

Through a twin analysis of Videodrome and Crash the essay aims to demonstrate that Cronenberg’s ’New Flesh’ is far from being a straightforwardly calling and radical manifest of certain technological, social and cultural changes, it is rather an extraordinarily sensible, ambivalent and elegiac commentary on these transformations. In discussing phenomenons enforcing man’s metamorphosis, the breeding of the new flesh and the attempt to exceed oneself, Pálos connects Canadian media philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s media theory and French essayist Jean Baudrillard’s theory of simulacra with Cronenberg’s films.

Fred Botting and Scott Wilson: Sexcrash

Sex in Cronenberg’s Crash is a banal, repetitive, mundane event and the movie, with its insistent but climaxless repetition of sex scenes, surgery and crashes, demonstrates nothing but arbitrary and unmotivated repetition. Everything is work: sex, entertainment, even death. In this sense, Crash is a film about the libidinal economy of labour. From this central insight, Botting and Wilson work outwards through the film as a generalised economy of automated sex, without desire to drive it or pleasure to end it. It is not the human characters who are the vehicles of sexual identity, nor are they the conduits of desire. Rather they suffer the effects of autosex, they become its victims and they eroticise themselves precisely as such in the form of their wounds and scars. The crashes in Crash are not isolated events, but a chain reaction, a constant catastrophe that engulfs everything.

Zoltán Márió Nemes: Man Turning Into Nothing: David Cronenberg and the Anthropological Staging

The fundamental anthropological question of ’What is Man?’ often surfaces in Cronenberg’s films, yet this questioning shows up in an anti-essentialist anthropological paradigm. These movies refuse to provide a final answer, they merely direct the viewer to newer and newer cultural discourses. The human body in the director’s works becomes a universal metaphor, yet this is precisely due to the fact that there is no essential Cronenbergian anthropology, that is to say there is no Cronenbergian body-concept in a positive sense. Man is an unfulfilled space, an existing absence, and each film tries ’to stage’ this deficit by addressing certain cultural discourses. Nemes Z. compares the different forms of anthropological stagings present in the director’s ouvre.

Márton Jankovics: Strictly Dreadful: The Evolution of Conspirational Mentality in David Cronenberg’s Films

A recurrent theme of Cronenberg’s movies is the subjugation of free will. In these films the authority responsible for this act can appear in the form of infectious parasites, however, it may also manifest itself as political organizations. The essay discusses the director’s works which provide examples of this latter concept. Jankovics demonstrates how Cronenberg maximizes political paranoia and how he transforms this into existential paranoia. Furthermore, the author maps out how the director exploits the metaphorical potential inherent in the topos of espionage. These movies exhibit man who, through discovering conspiration, begins to doubt reality and through spying becomes insecure concerning his own self.

László  Sepsi: ’Are we still in the game?’eXistenZ and the Films About Computer Games

The essay examines Cronenberg’s eXistenZ in relation to other films about computer games. After the historical overview which aims to outline how the subject appearing mainly in the genres of science fiction and horror undergoes a transformation from the early ’80s to the turn of the millenium, the second half of the study analyses eXistenZ as an encyclopedic, summarizing film of this topic. Sepsi argues that while Cronenberg uses numerous motives present in earlier movies about computer games, the director also borrows particular narrative and visual elements associated with this medium. Thus, Cronenberg’s work is not only significant concerning its historical status regarding these movies, but can be seen as an evidence of the approximation of film and digital entertainment as well.

Dániel Megyeri: The Back Side of the Maple Leaf: The Short and Television Features of David Cronenberg

In the films shot in the first eleven years of his career, the Canadian director commonly known as the ’Baron of Blood’ recorded how the image of his homeland changed day after day. Cronenberg’s independent authorial debut coincided with the realization of Canada’s autonomy, and the works of the discussed period show a sensitive reflection on the changes and conflicts of the country’s internal affairs. In his essay, Megyeri examines two short subjects (TransferFrom the Drain), two television films (The Lie ChairThe Italian Machine) and also studies theatrical features (StereoCrimes of the Future,ShiversRabid). By using his camera, Cronenberg reopens collective sores and explores the horrors of history, and the ouvre’s painstakingly analysed mutations and aberrations are now discussed from a sociological point of view.

Ákos Kele Fodor: Spark and Water: The Body in Chris Cunningham’s music videos and commercials

In his music videos and commercials Chris Cunningham explores an alien-like sense of the body by showing us bodies which are simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary. The director displays floating bodies, focuses on pathological changes or even produces videos about cyborgs. Kele Fodor reasons that these altered bodies do not completely diverge from our familiar body-image, at the same time they cannot be fitted into this construction. This ’tilted’ physicality occupying a somewhat boundary position is qualified to illuminate a more inherent meaning, that of the meta-personal body which belongs to all of us, and which awaits further interpretation. Cunningham’s peculiar vision of the body, which is in many ways connected to Cronenberg’s works, aims to perform precisely this task.

The second issue: Hungarian Genre Films


Dániel Orosdy: Italian Recipe, Hungarian Flavours: The Origin, Characteristics and Development of the Ötvös Csöpi Series

The Ötvös Csöpi crime-comedies, created by actor, writer and director István Bujtor, could be described as an idiosyncratic group of movies in the territory of the Hungarian genre film. These representatives of the Hungarian film history lacking the viable equivalents of action pictures like the James Bond movies, present a successful and entertaining series of a high standard, and some less demanding television films. The models for creator Bujtor were provided by Bud Spencer’s well-known Piedone series, Italian crime-comedies, Austrian-German sex-comedies, the novels of Jenő Rejtő (especially their parodistic manner), and some Hungarian genre pictures such as Az oroszlán ugrani készül. Orosdy, by performing an analysis upon the series and the television films, examines how Bujtor’s groundbreaking works combine elements from numerous different sources yet remain distinctly individual and Hungarian.

Dániel Megyeri: (Anti)hero Wanted: Contemporary Hungarian Mystery and Gangster Films

The essay examines the contemporary Hungarian representatives of two essentially protagonist-oriented genres, the mystery and the gangster film. The Hungarian take on the gangster genre, which originally builds upon larger-than-life characters and a strong reality component, presents us movies lacking valid central figures. Without real life gangsters that could function as forerunner figures, the genre is not able to exhibit iconic criminals and mythic narratives, instead it is only capable of presenting deconstructed heroes. Thus, as Megyeri suggests, the Hungarian gangster picture dissolves in the genres of comedy and drama. Due to the lack of emblematic criminals, the Hungarian detective, apart from a few popular series, is another character unable to exist in the cinematic genre of the mystery. Furthermore, as far as the representation of policemen is concerned, popular opinion regarding the occupation itself also poses a considerable difficulty.

Zsuzsanna Tüske: The Law of Inertia: The Hungarian Thriller Between 1977 and 1989

Based on a thorough analysis it can be concluded that all of the thrillers possessing a generic purity were produced in the 70’s and 80’s. The creators of the examined representatives of the genre, such as Defekt, Az áldozat, Mielőtt befejezi röptét a denevér, and an episode of the popular TV series Linda, aimed to produce strictly psychologically oriented thrillers that more often than not make much use of the body and sexuality. The movies Tüske discusses tend to feature giallo elements, and as a general tendency these pictures often blur the boundaries or swap of the roles of murder and victim, thus it becomes viable to examine these works from the aspect of the antihero and that of modernism.

Dániel Vízkeleti: Short Hungarian Horrorgraphy: A Century of the Hungarian Horror Film

The analysis focuses on the horror films of the Hungarian film history and on movies related to the genre on either thematic or stylistic grounds. The core of the essay is provided by the element of the fantastic: the author, by discussing the relationship between the Hungarian film and the so-called ’black’ fantastic, examines the lack of distinctly Hungarian fantastic narratives. Through the analysis of the films in question, the essay aspires to present Hungarian attempts to produce pictures belonging to the genre as a well-arranged survey. Vízkeleti thus establishes a link between works such as Dracula halála, Defekt, Mielőtt befejezi röptét a denevér, Hosszú alkony and Hasfalmetszők: with a careful study of these movies wandering on the borderline separating commercial film and art film, comedy and drama, the central question of the research can be answered.

Máté Fazekas: Spaceship in the Basin: Contemporary Hungarian Science Fiction Shorts

The essay aims to explore twenty contemporary films, focusing on the aspect as to how the creators of these short subjects are able to build up independent fictional worlds for the audience without the possibilities the creators of feature-length movies possess. The decidedly limited potentials of Hungarian filmmakers (with respect to the temporal and financial aspect of the shootings) pose a considerable difficulty, since the creators are forced to use an artistic logic in which the part stands for the whole without making the result look cheap. Fazekas also discusses the science fiction sub-genres favoured by the Hungarian filmmakers, comparing the works in question to each other as well as to the Hungarian SF ’tradition’ in general.

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