Gloomy Sunday

          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
  years.

          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
  attractive cast.

          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.


                       
Rating:                     B
                       
MPAA rating:            Not rated
                       
Running time:           114 mins.
© 2005 by C.E. Murphy. All Right Reserved.