Back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, writers were allowed to take
more dramatic license when telling a "true" story. Oftentimes, the
scriptwriter would invent characters, change names and fabricate tales
that had absolutely no bearing to actual events. In this day and age of
"reality" television and all, when a screenplay diverts from what is
perceived as the truth, a firestorm of controversy can erupt. Remember
all the brouhaha over A BEAUTIFUL MIND? How about the contretemps
over the TV miniseries "The Reagans"?
Now, there's a legend that those who heard the melancholic title
song from this film were driven to suicide. The tune, written by a pair
of Hungarians, composer Rezso Seress and lyricist Lazslo Javor, even
was banned in Britain because of its purported effect. Still, numerous
singers from Billie Holiday to Elvis Costello have recorded it over the
What does one thing have to do with the other? Well, the glossy
melodrama GLOOMY SUNDAY is based on a fictionalized account of
its creation (a novel by Nick Barkow) and no one is complaining about
the liberties taken. Perhaps it's because the film is gorgeously shot,
with terrific period decor and costumes, and is performed by an
GLOOMY SUNDAY is a love triangle set in Budapest in the 1930s
and 40s. Lazslo Szabo (Joachim Krol) is the Jewish proprietor of a popular
restaurant. Ilona (Erika Maroszan) is the hostess and sometime singer
at the establishment -- as well as Lazslo's mistress. After the Byronic
composer Andras Aradi (Stefano Dionisi of FARINELLI fame) arrives as
the house piano player, complications ensue. The trio eventually negotiate
a relationship, and Andras introduces his new composition -- a song he
calls "Gloomy Sunday."
Ilona also catches the eye of another patron, Hans Wieck, a wealthy
German (Ben Becker) whom she spurns. The German attempts to drown
himself after hearing Andras' haunting new song but is rescued by Lazslo.
The melody, in turn, become popular around the world and Andras
is expected to play it every night at the restaurant.
Once the Nazis have come to power, Lazslo is at risk, but
coincidentally Wieck is the officer in charge in Budapest. He spares the
restaurateur because of their past. At this point, the film takes a more
dramatic twist as tragedy ensues.
Like many European films, GLOOMY SUNDAY has crisp
cinematography and gorgeous production design, not to mention that
hauntingly melancholic titular tune. The principal actors, for the most
part, are attractive and talented. The movie apes the tradition of the
period melodramas that Hollywood churned out in its heyday and, on
those terms, is an entertaining piece.
MPAA rating: Not rated
Running time: 114 mins.
|© 2005 by C.E. Murphy. All Right Reserved.