There’s little by way of a story to Judit Elek’s feature debut The Lady from Constantinople – we spend some time with a lonely elderly lady changing houses and walking around town. And yet, how rich this film is, as she finds herself time and again in weird, awkward, outright surreal situations, including a funeral on a rooftop and an impromptu party full of strangers.
Elek shot vast parts of the film on streets among unsuspecting ordinary folk who got dragged into the film’s fiction by legendary actor Kiss Manyi whenever she started to comment on things they said, for instance. Some added vérité mileage was provided by the work of handheld camera genius Elemér Ragályi, whose leanly muscular style would soon grace gems as different as István Gaál’s poetic study on the functioning of dictatorial structures, Magasiskola (1970) and György Szomjas’s romantic, revolutionary steppe Western, Talpuk alatt fütyül a szél (1975). A revelation!