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Name: Dan Sallitt
Location: New York, New York, United States

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Frivolous Lists: Poland

In honor of my recent trip to Kraków for the Off Camera Independent Film Festival, here is a list of my favorite Polish films:

1. Iluminacja (Illumination) (Krzysztof Zanussi, 1973)
2. Wojaczek (Lech Majewski, 1999)
3. Matka Joanna od aniolów (Mother Joan of the Angels) (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1961)
4. Czlowiek na torze (Man on the Tracks) (Andrzej Munk, 1957)
5. Smierc prezydenta (Death of a President) (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1978)
6. Walkower (Walkover) (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1965)
7. Gdy spadaja anioly (When Angels Fall) (Roman Polanski, 1959)
8. Nóz w wodzie (Knife in the Water) (Roman Polanski, 1962)
9. Kung-Fu (Janusz Kijowski, 1979)
10. Przypadek (Blind Chance) (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1987)

Of course, I haven’t seen a great many celebrated Polish films, classic and recent. I note that some of the directors I mention above did their best work outside of Poland: I’d probably choose Chinatown (1974) over Polanski’s Polish films, Deep End (1970) over Walkower, The Garden of Earthly Delights (2004) over Wojaczek. (However, my minority opinion is that Kieslowski’s early Polish work is superior to his later international productions.)



Anonymous Pavel said...

I fully understand ,that Your list is subjective and frivolous but...


i see some personal shortcomings and would like to discuss:

Firstly, You didn't mention any of Andrzej Wajda's movie.
He is an essential part of Polish cinema. For foreigner most of his works could be indifferent ,because they are generally connected with Polish politcs, history and in strong junction with local cultural context. However, "Kanal" is surely worth reminding (AKA Canal / They Loved Life) (1956). Simple, powerful plot.

Secondly, what about my beloved and poetic "Rękopis znaleziony w Saragossie"(AKA Saragossa Manuscript, The) (1964) directed by Wojciech Has? I've read ,that Fellini also liked it.

Haven't You seen that masterpieces (in my humble opinion) or maybe You don't rate that directors/ movies high? If so, why?

By the way, i'm glad to read on Your blog about Polish cinematography and analise Your frivolous selection:>

Cheers ,

October 12, 2008 10:41 AM  
Anonymous pavel said...

PS. Wojciech Has directed also surreal "Sanatorium pod klepsydrą"
(AKA Sandglass, The / Hour-Glass Sanatorium, The)(1973). It is also worth seeing masterpiece.

BTW. If I commented your list, I have to mention two modern Polish films.

Pornografia (AKA "Pornography") (2003) directed by Jan Jakub Kolski. It is one of my favourite polish modern films. I think it has universal plot.

I also wonder ,how foreign moviegeeks could rate modern film of Marek Koterski "Wszyscy jesteśmy Chrystusami"(AKA We're All Christs) (2006).
This movie is very high in my subjective favourites list. However it is underrated by Polish critics.

I hope, that You or readers of this blog will consider that films in their watching plans:>

October 12, 2008 11:25 AM  
Anonymous pavel said...

Last but not least, curious detail:

"Seksmisja" directed by Juliusz Machulski (AKA Sexmission/Sex Mission) (1984) which has parallel key scene to Peter Weir's "Truman Show" (1998).

There are also other analogous aspects between this two films.

October 12, 2008 12:33 PM  
Blogger Vadim said...

The Saragossa Manuscript is indeed great. It's one of the few films lately that gave me the same what-did-I-just-see buzz I got the first time I saw Brazil. A Hass retro is overdue. Probably one for the obscure masochist programmers at BAM.

Dan, I'm deeply curious to hear any impressions of how the festival went. I was very impressed by the jury they got.

October 12, 2008 3:02 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Pavel, Vadim: I'm afraid I've never been able to enjoy Wajda (not even the early, funny ones), and Saragossa didn't make a deep impression on my when I saw it years ago. I'm game to try that one again, though.

(When I was walking in Kraków last week on ulica Floriańska, my assistant/nanny Aga says to me, "That's Andrzej Wajda." He crossed in front of us on the street, walking with his wife. Kind of impressive, even though I don't care for his movies.)

I haven't seen most of the other films you mention, Pavel, and will keep them in mind. But I did see Pornography and rather liked it - I'd like to see more by Kolski.

Vadim - I was going to say that we just had a Has retro at the Walter Reade, but it turns out that it was in September 1997, when you probably weren't even born, or something.

I had a truly wonderful time at Off Camera. My impression was that the programming was high quality, but I didn't see that many movies there. The festival was almost ridiculously ambitious, and the pieces were falling into place as it went along, but everything kind of worked, and all the attendees I spoke to were very happy with the experience.

I'll get sad if I keep talking about Kraków, or else I'll wind up writing a short book about it. But Mike Plante of CineVegas (who got engaged in Kraków! Pozdrawienia, Mike and Katie!) did a really nice festival wrapup, in five parts, on the CineVegas blog:

Day One
Opening Day

October 13, 2008 12:16 PM  
Blogger Vadim said...

Thanks for these links. Read the write-up, extremely pleased it turned out so well. I was 11 in 1997, and one of my favorite directors was Franco Zeffirelli. Sigh.

October 13, 2008 8:00 PM  
Blogger celinejulie said...

--I just want to say that I also prefer earlier Kieslowski’s films to his later ones. I love PERSONNEL (1976), CALM BEFORE THE STORM (1980) and SHORT WORKING DAY (1981) a lot, because I can feel connected to the feelings of frustration or dissatisfaction with the society in these films. I prefer these three films to later Kieslowski’s films which are co-written by Krzysztof Piesiewicz. Piesiewicz’s films have some spiritual feelings to which I can’t fully connect.

One of my most favorite Polish films is HI, TERESKA (2001, Robert Glinski). I also love IMPERATIVE (1982, Krzysztof Zanussi), but I saw it many years ago and hope I can see it again.

October 20, 2008 9:02 AM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

celinejulie – I too suspect that part of my problem with late Kieslowski is with Piesiewicz’s scripts. It was interesting to see Tykwer and Tanovic take a shot at the scripts that Kieslowski didn’t live to direct – I didn’t enjoy the results in either of those cases, and both those directors seem to me talented.

You’re not the only person to praise Hi, Tereska to me recently, but I didn’t completely enjoy it when I saw it years ago. I like a great deal of Zanussi’s work from the 70s and 80s - a particular favorite is Ways in the Night, which he shot in Germany. I hear that his recent work is not very interesting, although I haven’t had a chance to confirm that for myself.

October 23, 2008 11:28 AM  

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