Don’t Cry, Pretty Girls! (1970)

Meszaros turns Beat-inspired music-making into highly-sensual filmmaking in this work about rebellious Hungarian youths, romance and rock bands. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,154

Dir. Marta Meszaros
1970 | Hungary | Drama/Music/Romance | 85 mins | 1.66:1 | Hungarian
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for some sexual references and partial nudity

Cast: Jaroslava Schallerova, Kati Sir, Mark Zala
Plot: A gang of Beat music fans attend concerts and parties after spending tedious days in the factory. Juli, the fiancée of one of the gang’s boys, falls in love with a musician and travels with him for a gig.
Awards: –
Source: Hungarian National Film Archive

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

I haven’t seen a film like this in a long time, where music not only intersects with cinema but as a result of their commingling, its form gets altered and becomes hazy, and I mean it in a good way. 

Some have regarded it as a long-form music video or a slice-of-life musical of sorts, but it is not easy trying to define it.  I think I would describe the experience of seeing it as akin to someone turning on the radio while the film is unspooling. 

One of the early works of Hungarian filmmaker Marta Meszaros, made after The Girl (1968) and Binding Sentiments (1969), Don’t Cry, Pretty Girls! is unlike anything she had done up till that point.  In a way, it’s a bold departure and continues her experimentation with telling stories through unique ways. 

Here, music plays an incredibly fundamental role as we follow several rebellious youths who work in a factory and find leisure in attending gigs by local bands during their free time. 

Much of the film is accompanied by their diegetic Beat-inspired music—there is even a scene where the musicians perform poetry through music. 

It may ultimately be a slight work but Meszaros’ ability to turn a ‘music film’ into highly-sensual filmmaking is probably its most impressive aspect. 

She finds sensuality in Jaroslava Schallerova (who’s known best in her titular role in Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, also released in the same year) whose face and eyes evoke pure sexual tension, particularly in her scenes with a young cellist whom she is infatuated with. 

She is, however, about to be wedded in an arranged marriage, and here Meszaros poses the question about the freedom to love, and the choices a woman has to make in a conservative Hungarian society. 

Grade: B+

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