Hungaria "We Never Die" is a cheerful, scruffy picaresque
of a randy coat-hanger salesman who's also a gambler and whoremonger,
a man who seems to know every drunk and street sweeper in Hungary.
The '60s period story is a reminiscence by his nephew, who fondly
recalls the adventures he had with his "Uncle Juicy" (played
by Koltai himself). Juicy is an unstoppable powerhouse, with Koltai's
verve as a performer barreling through the "Auntie Mame"-force-of-the-universe
quality of its horny, unshaven uncle. There are also moments of
giddy invention - who would guess Uncle Juicy would be charming
enough to flag down an airplane for a quick hitch-hike to the racetrack?
A strong first feature.
City, apr. 14. 1994.)
Never Die' is a juicy chunk of Hungarian life in '60s
Róbert Koltai is the kind of boisterous, big-hearted, expansive
performer - alert to life's foibles and craziness - that audiences
of any nationality usually fall for. And in "we Never Die"
Koltai, basing his movie on his own youthful misadventures in the
'60s, has given himself in a perfect showcase.
In this warm, comic, rowdy and tender nostalgia piece - the biggest,
locally made box office hit in Hungarian movie history - Koltai
plays Uncle Gyuszi (or "Juicy"), a small-time salesman
who sells his own wooden clothes hangers from town to town, and
who takes his nephew Imi (Mihály Szabados) along for the ride.
Imi, of course, is based on Koltai himself as a young man. Uncle
Gyuszi is drawn from his own wild and wooly uncle, a memorable scapegrace
who was a self-employed wooden hanger peddler in the Hungarian provinces,
addicted to womanizing, gambling and harness-racing.
Gyuszi - like all those youthful "bad influences" we never
really fall out of love with - is a sinner. But he's an exuberant
one, full of love for the women he chases, the booze he guzzles,
and the trotters who can never seem to win, place or show for him.
He's a capitalist wannabe trapped in a Marxist society, and perhaps
because of that, he's not venal or corrupt. He knows he's not going
anywhere, that the cops and officials he bribes and who occasionally
beat him or run him out of town, have him under such a yoke, that
the only thing is left is to enjoy the trip.
In "We Never Die", Gyuszi promises his nephew - recalling
the whole episode years later in a flashback - an odyssey of "grub,
booze and women".
Of course, they get less - and more - than they bargained for. Although
Gyuszi's schetnes and dreams keep going astray, he keeps bounding
back. And what keeps bring him from beeing obnoxlous or irritating
is the way Koltai manages to convey an immense vulnerability and
sweetness under the swagger and braggadocio. As one of Hungary's
leading stage actors (and cabaret comedy performers), Koltai's major
roles included another famous peddler - Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's
"Death of a Salesman" - and he's alive to the story's
poignancy as much as its ribaldry.
As full raunchy humor as it is of unabashed sentiment, the movie
includes one character - a booksellers randy wife named Betty Lou
(Kathleen Gati) - whose sole function seems to be to drag the shocked
but delighted Imi off to bed as soon as possible. But like Jack
Nicholson, Gene Hackman and Walter Huston, Koltai can give you the
juices of life without poisons. He dominates the screen without
bulldozing it, displaying all of Gyuszi's flaws without relaxing
his grip on our affections.
The movie also gives us an unexpected but interesting look at Hungary
under Communism. It's a Hungary we don't neccessaily see in movies
of Istvan Szabo, Miklos Jancso or Peter Gothar. Koltai seems less
intent on raking over the past, than in recalling what amused or
moved him; he shows us a country bumbling along in a bureucratic
vise, with its somewhat free spirits dancing clumsily on the edges.
Tribune, apr. 13. 1994.)
Never Die': A Sunny, High-Spirited Journey
blithely nostalgic and sentimental "We Never Die" has
such high spirits it's no wonder it was such a box-office hit in
Hungary. It has the warmth humor of the Jiri Menzel films but hasn't
as much of their subtlety and acute social observation. It travels
well anyway but is best regarded as a minor, though certainly endearing,
An established cabaret.performer and stage actor, Koltai, at 49,
makes his screen debut as the film's star, director and co-writer
in this largery autobiographical tale. He casts himself as the grizzled
stocky Gyuszi Tordai, a free-spirited itinerant wooden hanger salesman,
who, as a birthday present, takes his gangly 17-years-old nephew
Imi (Mihály Szabados) along with him on his travels one summer in
the early '60s. Imi's parents have good reason to feel a certain
apprehension in leaving their son with Gyuszi, who once they are
out of sight, promises the kid "Grub, booze and women".
Gyuszi also plays the horses - heavily.
Gyuszi is, in short, one of those indefatigable life-force types
like auntie Mame or Zorba the Greek. Wherever there are people around
he must show off in some way and become the center of attention.
Bombastic guys like Gyuszi can become boring and tiresome very rapidly,
and it is Koltai's key accomplishment that he prevents this from
happening. He dares to give the man some quiet moments. Gyuszi may
be loud, but he is not a fool, although he may play one if it suits
his purpose, and he genuinely cares for women, wich is no doubt
why he's so successful with them despite his seedly appereance and
Koltai shrewdliy gives his story a bittersweet spin, and allows
Gyuszi a really nasty run-in with some cops to remind us that we
are after all in a Communist country. On the whole, however, "
We Never Die" (Times-rated Mature for some sex, nudity) Is
a sunny journey into a simpler past, into rural, small-town areas
where everybody and everything is shabby and poor but where people
seem capable of enjoying life and one another.
Angeles Times, Okt. 22. 1993.)