Posts Tagged ‘Polanski’

The Tenant | Le Locataire (1976 Blu-ray

Dir: Roman Polanski | Wri: Roman Polanski, Gerard Brach | Cast: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, Shelley Winters, Jo Van Fleet | Prods: Andrew Braunsberg, Alain Sarde | Original Music: Philippe Sarde | 126mins

The Tenant completes the Apartment Trilogy following on from Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby and a faithful adaptation of the 1964 novel Le Locataire Chimerique. Polanski directs, co-writes and appears as a Polish emigré called Trelkovsky in this allegory of the outsider in society, a poignant reminder of the immigrant in these Brexit-ridden days.

Paris is the sombre star of the twisted psychodrama, squalidly romantic and steeped in Jan Nyqvist’s evocative visual gloom that unearths nostalgia for the Paris of the 1970s with its sleazy backstreets and nicotine-stained bars where seedy raincoated types breakfast on Gauloises and Café Crème.

Based on the book by Roland Topor, this portrait of paranoia is punctured by lewd moments of humour and a scabrid script. Trelkovsky is a timid, insignificant sort of functionary. Despite his newly acquired French citizenship he is painfully aware of his foreign status in the eyes of the chauvinist French. Renting an two-room apartment where the previous tenant has attempted suicide, he remains a doleful character soaking up the ancient atmosphere of the squalid apartment block with its ghostly corridors, strange noises, and litany of neighbour complaints, until he gradually takes on the guise of the former occupant of his flat in the rue des Pyrénées: Simone Choule.

Polanski gives an understated but persuasive performance and one that leaves us reflecting on his own tragic past. The horror slowly unravels to Philippe Sarde’s poignantly plangent score (with its suavely syncopated dance sequence). Trelkovsky’s American colleagues gradually fade into the background leaving him a vulnerable figure troubled by his sniping landlord and accusing neighbours, imagining the worst in this moribund backwater of the city’s former industrial heartland.

The director clearly feels for his character, a seedy little outsider who is desperate to do the right thing. He pours the anguish of his own past into this Polish alter ego, from the loss of his mother in a concentration camp, to a childhood of rejection from foster families on account of being Jewish, to the brutal bloody murder of his wife and unborn child. Trelkovksy also becomes obsessed with Simone and her mysterious past, even entertaining a friend and comforting him when he turns up unaware she had subsequently lost her fight for life in the Hospital Bretonneau. Simone’s  funeral is particularly macabre adding a Gothic twist this richly textured saga. Gradually empathising with Simone’s terrifying breakdown he embodies her whole being, dressing in her frocks and a grotesque wig. Haunted by the past the present becomes his reality in flesh and blood, echoing in his horrifying screams that resonate with a wartime siren in the final moments. Pity, shame and humiliation in the Père-Lachaise.

Polanski would go on to win an Oscar for his 2002 thriller The Pianist. The Tenant limped home empty-handed from Cannes, a bruised and broken, intimately private film, feeding into the director’s personal brand of enigmatic psychosis, the outsider’s descent into self-inflicted purgatory that eventually becomes self-realising, or is it just a nightmare?

Strangely Polanski received no acting credit for his quietly appealing role alongside Isabelle Adjani’s nonchalant lover, Shelley Winters’ sulky concierge, Lila Kedrova’s tortured neighbour and her crippled child. Watching the film you can’t help meditating on Paris’ grim revolutionary past. For me, every part of France is a film memory: Claude Chabrol’s Le Boucher is Bergerac; Swimming Pool (2003), Avignon; A Prophet (2009) very much embodies the fighting spirit of Marseilles; La Reine Margot is resolutely Bordeaux: but Paris is The Tenant, one of the most haunting films ever made. MT



Cul-de-Sac (1966) | Criterion UK | Bluray release

577_BD_stickerDirector: Roman Polanski |Writers: Polanski and Gérard Brach | DoP: Gilbert Taylor | Score: Krzysztof Komeda | Cast: Donald Pleasence, Françoise Dorléac, Lionel Stander, Jack MacGowran, Iain Quarrier, Geoffrey Sumner | Thriller | 113min

This cruel and dark comedy follow-up to Repulsion is supposed to be Polanski’s favourite, indulging his penchant for awkward social situations, where the underdog is pitted against the stronger personalities. It is another battle of wits fought out in the wild and remote beaches of Lindisfarne where a mismatched married couple are besieged by a couple of robbers and then forced into keeping up appearances when their weekend visitors eventually arrive.

Donald Pleasence and the exquisitely gamine Françoise Dorleac, play the couple (Dorleac was to die in a car accident for the following year at only 25), he is mesmerised by her sexual allure and obsessively in love, she ambivalent and flirtatious playing teasing games when they are interrupted by the arrival of an American crook Richard (Stander) and his mate Albie (MacGowran) whose car has been washed up on a sand dune. The third of the trio, a man called Katelbach, never appears.

The back-footed and half-dressed couple squirm and squabble as they try to get the better of the criminals – who terrorise and torment them. But when Jacqueline Bisset arrives as a glamorous guest, Richard is forced into a submissive role as a butler to maintain his cover, and this gives him a dose of his own medicine – for a while, at least. Of course, it all ends in tears but not before a witty and rather nasty and drawn out interplay between the protagonists.

With Polanski you’re never going to get harmony or a happy ending but CUL-DE-SACs characters are all unlikeable and unpleasant in different ways as the toxic dynamic plays out.

As usual, Polanski surrounds himself with the creme de la creme in cast and crew: DoP Gilbert Taylor’s images gleam with a velvety lustre, Krzysztof Komeda (Rosemary’s Baby, Knife in the Water) provides a perky, score and the production design comes courtesy of Voytek. The whole lot produced by Gene Gutowski (The Pianist, Repulsion, Fearless Vampire Killers). And for once we can be proud of a British-made indie cult classic. CUL-DE-SAC really is arthouse cinema at its best. MT





Walkover (1965) Walkower | Bergamo Film Meeting 2021

Dir|Wri: Jerzy Skolimowski | Cast: Aleksandra Zawieruszanka, Andrzej Leszczyc, Krzysztof Chamiec | 77min   Drama    Polish with subtitles

During the 1960s writer and director Jerzy Skolimowski focused on films exploring the ironic aspects and moral dilemmas affecting everyday life in post-Stalinist Poland. His films were the ‘Impressionists’ of an era dominated by the sweeping epics of the Polish Film School.

A debut feature, Rysopsis (Identification Marks: None) 1965 was closely followed by WALKOVER another drama set in his home town of Lodz (and also starring his off-screen partner Elzbieta Czyzewska in the opening scenes).

As Andrzej Leszczy, he represents a ‘New Wave’ hero, a raffish outsider with a certain appeal to the opposite sex. Drifting around the locale, having left the army and about to embark on engineering studies, he is taking part in a local boxing match when he meets Teresa (Aleksandra Zawieruszanka), a government engineer who has arrived in the city to work on a new factory scheme. Under Teresa’s spell (Zawieruszanka looks like a Polish equivalent of Angie Dickinson) goes to the wrong ring for the tournament. And as he sits on the train with Teresa, we see his boxing opponent following on a motorbike, viewed in a superb continuous shot from the rear of the carriage. Turning up later, Andrzej wins the contest in a “walkover” as his rival fails to turn up.

As a metaphor for individuality WALKOVER was a very personal second feature for Skolimowski, who aside from his filmmaking activities enjoyed boxing and poetry, some of which is recited in voiceover in several scenes. The film opens with the face of a woman who will later jump under Andrzej and Teresa’s train, but rather than develop this plotline, Skolimowski’s film segues unconventionally into Andrzej’s story using the furore from the accident as an enticing background introduction to the central story about the couple’s brief romance.

The tragedy of the girl under the train adds additional texture, but remains an undeveloped strand. Perhaps his intention was to use her suicide as a cry for help from the thousands of Poles who felt washed up, directionless and cynical after years of fighting a cause; rather like the troubled characters in Tadeusz Konwicki’s Last Day of Summer. It was certainly his intention to explore unconventional ways of telling a story.

Skolimowski’s drama also seems to suggest the importance of standing up against the tide of change and power.  Both Andrzej and Teresa go on to fight their individual battles in WALKOVER. Andrzej perseveres with his boxing and Teresa argues with the factory chief but they both rebel against the tide of industrial Lodz. Although the couple enjoy a night together they remain detached in the scheme of things, alienated further by the stark industrial landscape of Sixties Lodz.

The occasional modernist building sparks interest, such as in the pure lines of the outdoor restaurant scene (title photo), emphasising the pristine black and white cinematography of Antoni Nurzynski. The film also features a meandering, improvised jazzy score by Andrzej Trzaskowski (Night Train). MT




Macbeth (1971) | Criterion Collection UK

Director: Roman Polanski | Writers: Kenneth Tynan/Roman Polanski

Cast: Jon Finch, Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw, Terence Bayler, Nicholas Selby, Stephan Chase

140min  Drama

Who better to direct The Tragedy of Macbeth than Roman Polanski, bringing his customary nihilism to the famous Scottish play: his is an ambitious production but not amongst his best, despite collaboration from Kenneth Tynan on the script. The action opens on a desolate shoreline where young nobleman Macbeth (Jon Finch) is returning from battle, three witches are seen casting their spells in the watery half light of a wintery dusk.  The locations were infact Porthmadog and Northumberland but they absolutely conjure up the essence of the story. Most of film is set in dank and dripping moorland or inside shivering castles where the additional effect of howling winds add to the sense of unease – not even blazing open fires can warm this cruel and hopeless saga. Polanski, deeply effected by the recent violent murder of his lover Sharon Tate, clearly made his film more violent than the play (lines such as “Untimely ripped from his mother’s womb” seem particularly cruel and apt) but it could equally have echoed his experiences in Krakow. In any event, Polanski was always going to make a grisly rendering of Shakespeare’s brutal masterpiece. This is very much Polanski’s version: he added a final scene, a variation from the Shakespeare play – where Donalbain is seen skulking off to the Witches’ hideout. This is the sting in the tail, the classic Polanski unhappy ending; offering no hope for redemption. The use of a discordant score from the folk band Third Ear and Gil Taylor’s stunningly photographed scenic set pieces add grim redolence to proceedings and the siege scenes are particularly evocative of doom. Casting off screen lovers Francesca Annis and Jon Finch as the Macbeths, their dark good looks and chemistry permeate the drama. A superb performance from Francesca Annis makes it easy to see how a man can be led to his demise by his own inflated ego and the sexual obsession for a woman who feeds his lust for power (and indeed, her own), as she does as Lady Macbeth here.

In the event, neither of these characters possesses the moral fibre consistent with their regal stature: and this is why the story so perfectly fits into Polanski’s body of work: the professionals seen wanting, brought down by their own petty insecurities. Macbeth is seen as a figure worthy of disdain, a man hoisted by his own petard; a ‘falling King’, rather than a ‘fallen’ one. The film was not a commercial success, and although capable and atmospheric, lacks the precision and perfection of his earlier works, Knife in The Water and Repulsion. MT


Shakespeare Lives at the BFI and Worldwide | April – May 2016

Romeo_and_Juliet_(1968)_1As we celebrate the 400th Birthday of our most famous writer, the BFI presents the biggest ever programme of SHAKESPEARE on film nationwide and in selected countries across the World, courtesy of the British Council.

This will include a number of 4k restorations – Franco Zeffirelli’s ROMEO AND JULIET and Akira Kurosawa’s RAN and re-mastered adaptations from Roman Polanski, Kenneth Branagh and Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier. 18 films will tour 110 countries to share the legendary English works on film with the rest of the World – from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, Cuba to India, Russia to the USA and even Iraq. This is the most extensive film programme ever undertaken.

Ran_bfi-00n-93cShakespeare’s works have been successfully translated for the screen under different guises and re-interpretations and there will be a chance to visit them: Baz Luhrman’s ROMEO AND JULIET; Julie Taymor’s TITUS ANDRONICUS; Orson Welles’ CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, Kurosawa’s THRONE OF BLOOD and RAN, Basil Dearden’s ALL NIGHT LONG (Othello); Gus Van Sant’s MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO (Henry IV part 1 and 2 and Henry V) and most recently Gil Younger’s 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU (The Taming of the Shrew).

Sir Ian McKellen will travel around the world to present and discuss Shakespeare on Film. Ian starred in and co-adapted RICHARD III (1995), directed and co-adapted by Richard Loncraine and co-starring Annette Bening, Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Kristen Scott Thomas, Robert Downey Jr and Dominic West. The film will be simulcast, in partnership with Park Circus, across UK cinemas on 28 April with a special post-film on-stage discussion with Ian McKellen live from BFI Southbank.

Richard_III_(1955)_1With the film set in the 1930s and shot largely on location in London, Ian McKellen will also be hosting public bus tours of the iconic locations in the film, from St Pancras station and Tate Modern to Battersea Power Station and Hackney’s haunting gas holders. RICHARD III is also being screened at BFI Southbank, will be part of the international touring programme and re-released by the BFI in a DVD/Blu-ray Dual Format Edition on 23 May, with brand new additional material, including new audio commentary.

P l a y  O n !  Shakespeare in Silent Cinema

SILENTS_-_THE_MERCHANT_OF_VENICE_(1910)It is believed that around 500 Shakespeare films were made in the silent era and this new film is a playful compilation of scenes from the best surviving adaptations held by the BFI National Archive, including the first ever Shakespeare film KING JOHN (1899) and a rare discovery of a 20-year old John Gielgud’s earliest appearance on film in ROMEO (1922). Other films from the 26 titles sampled include THE TEMPEST (1908), THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1916) – shot on location in Venice, JULIUS CAESAR (1909), MACBETH(1909) and RICHARD III (1911). The BFI has commissioned the musicians and composers of Shakespeare’s Globe to write a score for the film which will take an innovative approach, marrying a different composer for each of the film’s five acts (see Notes to Editors for credits). The film will premiere at BFI Southbank, play UK-wide in cinemas and on the international tour, and will be available in the summer on BFI DVD and BFI Player.

W O R L D W I D E   C O V E R A G E   A N D   E V E N T S

Hamlet_(1948)_2SLOVENIA: will launch the first official international screenings on 27 January with HENRY V (1944), Polanski’s MACBETH  (1979) Jarman’s THE TEMPEST (1979) and Hickox’s THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973)

BRAZIL is creating ‘Shakespeare House’ at the Paraty International Literary Festival (FLIP) in late June which will showcase the BFI curated films

NEW YORK: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, will be featuring highlights of the programme this autumn.

POLAND will present Play On! Shakespeare in Silent Cinema with local live music accompaniment at an open-air screening as part of Wrocław European Capital of Culture, and the BFI curated films will screen throughout the year

Shakespeare_Wallah_(1965)_posterShakespeare from 29-30 April will feature three films from Indian director Vishal Bhardwaj; MAQBOOL (2003), OMKARA (2006) and HAIDER (2014), based on Macbeth, Othello and Hamlet respectively with Bhardwaj himself discussing the films on stage with the scriptwriters.

My_Own_Private_Idaho_bfi-00m-rlnCinemas and outdoor locations in Iraq, including a refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), will use the universal themes of Shakespeare to highlight the humanitarian situatioN. In East Asia international film festivals including Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong will present the programme from April to June
On Midsummer Night (21 June) Russia will present a large scale summer festival dedicated to Shakespeare in one of Moscow’s central parks. Italy will be exploring the rich connection between Shakespeare’s plays and Italian locations by screening films in 20 cities and a series of high profile events
Greece will present ‘Shakespeare in the City’ in partnership with the Athens International Film Festival, including open air screenings in archaeological sites, squares and parks. Plans are being developed in many other countries including India and sub-Saharan Africa

Join in the conversation on Twitter and Facebook via @BFI and using #ShakespeareLives | SOME TITLES ARE ALSO SCREENING AT THE BARBICAN 


Pawel Edelman – Cinematographer

PE: Well I was born in Lodz (Poland), this is the famous city where the film school was founded and all the time when I was a young boy I was remembering that very special place in the city where all the great directors were learning how to make beautiful films so from the very first moment I was thinking about movies.  And then, and this was by accident, my brother gave me a camera and I didn’t think about making stills or even movies at that time, let alone cinematography, but it was such a great pleasure that I decided to go to the film school (which was then funded by the Government) and it all started like that. It you’ve even seen The Promised Land by Wajda, it was filmed in the city of Lodz. It was industrial, full of red brick, dull buildings but the only place that was shining was the film school and that’s why everybody wanted to go there. 

Q: Lódz is not only know for the film school but it’s the only city that has a festival aimed at cinematography, the famous Camerimage Festival that takes place each November. Was it natural that you were always going to study there, rather than some other place? Was it because you wanted to follow in the footsteps of Wajda and Polanski?

PE: Well of course, I never imagined that I would go somewhere else, from the very first moment I knew that this was where a young Polish filmmaker should go.

Q: Tell us about the training there and how you ended up working towards  cinematography?

PE: Well Lódz was a very special film school. Right from the beginning, we started making a black and white film on 35mm and all the films during my training there were only made on 35mm which was very rare because all the other schools during my training were using 16mm, a smaller camera, so that was the first difference about Lodz.  The second was that we had a professional crew; we had gaffers, camera assistants and grips, so from the first year we had to co-operate with those people which was a great training because later on when we started working on professional productions we already had some tricks and knew how to handle the crew, which is one of the most important elements if you’re going to be a good DoP, so we had some great teachers and we made some fantastic friends.  So just after film school I started to shoot features with my colleague directors, which was fantastic.

Q  So let’s move on now to one of the major collaborators of your career, (Roman Polanski), and it’s somebody who I want to come back to later because this was your international breakthrough.

But first, let’s show a clip of the film you made with Andrzej Wajda, that was the starting point to Hollywood:

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ED: Yes, and that’s why I wanted to show you this Pan Tadeusz clip (of the Last Foray in Lithuania (1999)) because it was about the 10th film I did in Poland and probably the one that attracted the attention of Roman Polanski, because after that he called me and asked me to join him in The Pianist (2002) so that was the link between my Polish period of my career and the international one.

Q Before we look at The Pianist I want to find out how exactly you defined your role in the making of all these films.  Where you someone who involved yourself very early on with the script-reading with the director and the actors? How did you start to get a vision for the film?

ED: That was the good thing about Lodz film school, we were working most of the time with the directors. After finishing film school I started working with my friend Wladyslaw Pasikowski, I think we’ve made 8 movies together, and the films we made together were like a stylistic breakthrough in Poland and they were very popular. Wladyslaw was like a star. We were working on the script, talking about the locations, scouting together, collaborating on the writing and that tradition is something very special at that school. Together we made Kroll (1991); Pigs (1992); Psy 2: Ostatnia crew (1994); Bitter-Sweet (1999); Demony wojny wed ug Goi (1998); Operacja Samum (1999); Reich (2001); Poklosie (2012).

Q: And does this make things much easier for you when working on the film?

ED: Of course it does: it’s interesting to be involved as early as possible, to know the main subject and the themes to be a part of the whole machinery of the movie-making process, which makes you (as a DoP) more involved and in the  centre of the process.

Q: So we come to The Pianist, which won you a César and also the Eagle Polish Film Award 2003 for best cinematography and numerous nominations leading to your becoming Hollywood Cinematographer of the Year in 2005.  What were the initial meetings with Polanski like?

ED: Roman is a director who knows exactly what he wants. We didn’t have a long conversation at the beginning, we just met very briefly in Berlin, because that’s where the movie was to be shot, in Berlin and the second part in Warsaw. We were briefly talking about the style of the film and the only thing was said was that it should be as natural and as documentary (in style) as possible and everyday when I went on set I kept in mind that it should be as simple as possible. Because if I can make it like that it will be believable.

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Q:  I mentioned my interest about the relationship between the DoP, the director and the film editor and then tensions between them all.  How much did you and Roman Polanski speak about the way you were going to shoot this scene in terms of how it was going to eventually appear with the close screen shots of the actor in the room and then the camera going outside to the streets below?

PE  Roman’s way of working is always the same.  We don’t know too much about the scenes before we meet with the actors. Every morning there’s a meeting with the DoP, the directors and the actors, we start from scratch with the actors reading the script and he’s (Roman) placing them in the room, in that case. They rehearse the scene over and over again and then after the rehearsals, when everybody knows what they’re doing, we look at the scene created by them and we discuss how to film it.  We don’t know what will happen later ’til after the rehearsals and I just love that type of work because everything goes naturally from the script and from the actors.

Q: And is that the way it worked even from the “documentary-type” style you tried to follow in The Pianist?

PE: Yes, nothing is pre-planned, everything seems to be absolutely natural.

Q: So The Pianist led you into Hollywood and how would say that changed things from the point of view of working style?  Did you find it more enjoyable, or did you find yourself (being) more of a cog in a large wheel?

PE: Definitely there’s a huge difference between making films in Europe and making them in America. Making films in America you become part of the ‘film industry’, making films in Europe is working with friends, and my friend directors.  And this is a totally different type of activity. In the US, you’re part of the big machinery, in Europe you’re working in a creative process with your friends. And that’s always going to be more fun, working with friends.

Q: It’s great that we’ve got two examples of American Film clips to show you and, in a way, you couldn’t get a more different visual style.  We’re going to start with All The King’s Men (2006) by Steven Zaillian and the second is Ray (2004) which you made with Taylor Hackford.

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Q: Ray uses a very soft palette of rich colours, embued with the warm South and reflecting the mellow feel of jazz music but with All The King’s Men you’ve used a very cool steely palate with interesting use of shadow and harsh.  Could you talk about how you and Steven Zaillian created the look of this film?

PE: I think the idea was ‘German Expressionist‘ because we all had this picture in our minds on those beautiful black and white films and that’s why we wanted to go with this feel of going away from colour, being de-saturated, not strong and we wanted to use a harder light intentionally to show the hardness and cruelty of that type of politics.  Things are a little different now and times have changed and I think the audience likes this type of commercial films rather than the artistic, ambitious type of film.

Q: Just taking that point further, do you think that there’s still a very strong visual culture in Poland?  In the UK, I think because we come out of a culture of theatre and writing, there’s a more literary culture but I don’t think there’s ever been a strong visual style here compared to Poland. Is the visual aesthetic still there in contemporary Polish film?

PE: Obviously there’s a huge tradition of classical cinema in Poland and this is Wajda and friends.  I was lucky to meet Andrzej  and have been with him on many films and he is one of the directors who’s thinking more about the visual side and how the movie will look but I can’t say that this tradition is existing in every single section in Poland. It’s sad but it’s gone.  I think that the story has to visible, that’s the most important thing.  I wouldn’t like to be remembered as a guy who did good pictures on bad films, I would rather be remembered for good films with bad pictures and I’m being serious (laughs).  I’m not fighting for something that’s mine, I’m fighting for the characters, I’m fighting for the scenes, that’s why the composition is good because of something, because of the accent you should put on somebody or some element that should be there and very visible in the film.

Q: So to sum up, looking back over your career so far do you think you have a specific visual style or do you feel your imput is ABSOLUTELY dictated by the material you’re working on?

PE: Yes, as I’m getting older I believe that the script gives all the answers: you just take the script and feel script and smell it…that’s how I think of it. The script dictates the solutions.

Q: Moving on, let’s talk about  Roman Polanski and about the very strong story of your second collaboration with him in 2005, Oliver Twist.

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PE: Yes this production had effects that had to be larger than life. We were 90 days shooting this movie in Prague. The costumes were highly exaggerated and we used more make-up on the actors.  To create that special look we made use of candle-light, and locally placed lanterns. There were loads of people dragging hundreds of lanterns and different lights around the set just to give the correct feel to the lighting, it was very intense and special.

Q: And moving on to The Ghost Writer (2010) tell us about the way you created the visual look for that film?

PE: There was clouds, and we were waiting for clouds all the time and there was no sunlight or hard light and my goal was to build a contrast, sometimes quite high levels of contrast using only the soft light and also a de-saturated palette of colours.

Q You go from a very short depth of field to a very wide lens in the scene of Ewan McGregor and Olivier Williams when they’re walking along the beach:

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PE: Well this is a different subject: choice of lenses. Roman is using only two lenses, no more.  Not everybody know this. For each film we were just picking two lenses and just shooting everything with them. This is very rare.

Q: Why does he do that?

PE: Because he feels that if he switches from long lenses to short lenses for the shot, there will be no consistency for the shot, for the look he’s going for, so in The Pianist we were only using 25 and 32.  In Oliver Twist, because of the larger that life idea we were using little lenses like 21 to 25 then for The Ghost Writer we came back to 25 and 32. And nobody else is like that.  I’ve never worked with another director who’s so strict, who picks such a small variety of optics.

Q: Let’s look at another clip of The Ghost Writer – one where Ewan McGregor is involved in a car chase.
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Q: This is an action sequence.  Do you find it pleasurable, upping the ante and working with more dynamic action scenes?
PE: Roman is very precise. Everything grows from the rehearsals, tons of rehearsals, and there’s a little story about this, not about that film but about The Pianist. There is a scene there when 2000 extras are leaving the ghetto and the Germans are putting them into carriages.  We had only two days in the schedule to prepare and shoot that scene and it was a complex and very complicated and yet we wanted it to appear very natural. And it was costing tons of money each days with these 2000 extras and on the first day Roman was just rehearsing again and again the producers were going crazy because by the end of the day we hadn’t shot even one metre of film. So on the second day we shot the whole scene very quickly because, after the tons of rehearsals, we know exactly what we wanted.  And everything is like that with Roman.  Things that appear terrible complex and difficult just seem to be suddenly be so easy and natural and that’s his way of doing complex scenes.
He likes it when the situation is limiting him and when people are difficult and when there’s no time left.  At the moment we are shooting Venus In Fur, which is about limitations and only has only two people in real time in the theatre, which is limiting and this is what excites him.
Q: What sort of equipment do you like using?
PE: I think all the cameras are different. I was just used to using Panavision, but for the last 3 or 4 films I was using Arricam which are better and lighter and wellmade and for lens I use Cooks 4.  In Carnage we used 25 and 32.
Q: And how do you capture the feel of a film in the opening scene?
PE: When I’m reading the script for the first time, I try to get a feeling: I’d say I literally smell it – for example no sun, only clouds,  black and white,  handheld, It’s the basic imagery that comes out from the lines in the script.  And as soon as I’ve caught it I start the film and I’m not doing the film until I’ve captured the feel or style of the script because otherwise i don’t know what to do.
Q  Have you ever had to compromise your vision to make a film?
PE: My point of view is that the images shouldn’t be beautiful per se.  The images have to capture the film, they have to serve the film and it’s not a sacrifice it’s just understanding my work.  I don’t think beautiful pics are the best picture, the pics have to serve the general idea and style: handsome or not.
Q Give us an example of where you felt extremely happy with what you’d achieved on a film?
PE: It’s not like that.  But there are always mistakes things i’d now in a different way.
Q: Do you prefer working on location or in a studio.
PE: Well on location it’s sometimes easier; you’re there in the surrounding and don’t have to work so hard to imagine the style but and it’s less boring because you’re moving around but on the other hand, the studio gives you the opportunity to control the film and you’re not waiting around for the weather.  When I’m sitting around waiting for sun or clouds it’s hopeless and I want to be independent from the weather but then in the studio you always want to be in the other place!
Q: How do you feel about your relationship with editors?  It is sometimes difficult?.
PE: I have to say that sometimes I have arguments with editors, especially nowadays (general laughter). Recently I’ve had experiences where they are making decisions about which takes to use; because nowadays everything is transferred on to tape including the take you dont want to use. The editor can choose bad takes that are out of focus or not the ones we chose at the time of shooting.  So the editors decisions are technically wrong and I try to explain to them why they’re wrong but they are still going ahead and use the wrong material and it makes me furious. But I’m sure there are still good editors out there (laughs).
Q: Film or digital, which do you prefer?
PE: Yes, all the films so far have been on 35mm.  I’ve shot one film on digital and that’s the last Polanski movie, Venus in Fur.  Every time, for the last 7 years, before we start the movie we run the tests and all the time the winner was 35mm.  And this time we ran the tests and the result came out that new digital Sony F65 was best. Roman and I agreed that this was the one to use for the first time.  So we haven’t finished the movie yet and I still have to go through post production.  But we’ll see if we’ve made the right decision when I see the final result.  Or I’ll be crying (laughs).
Q: Do you find that using digital has effected your performance during the filmmaking process?
Digital is different, I must admit. Looking through the eyepiece used to be the best way to see the filming process but the digital cameras don’t have good eyepieces so you have to look at the shooting process and see the scene is on the monitor which is different, so you don’t operate the camera from the eyepiece anymore.  The monitor shows you details, colours, contrast etc so it best to look at that.
Q: Tell us about your relationship with Andrzej Wajda?
PE: We have in Poland since the Second World War, two major film directors: one is Roman Polanski and the other is Andrzej Wajda and I’ve had the luck and the fortune to work with both of them and they’re both completely different, I must say but they are both great Masters: Andrzej is more intuitive and all about the visual side of the film, and his vision because before he was a painter, may be that’s why.  Roman is an actor so he knows how to connect with and direct the actors in a very precise way and is very connected to the acting and re-hearsing process. And there is a difference because Andrjez is trying to solve political and social problems but Roman is more interested in telling stories that interest him. But they are both wonderful filmmakers coming from different perspectives.
Q: Do you find your relationship with Andrzej in more intuitive when you’re working with him.  Over the last few decades of collaboration, do you find you know what he wants immediately when you start work.
PE: No. With Andrzej  every day is an improvisation and completely different. Some days we are working on changes with the script. Others we are implementing these changes with the actors.  I never know how it’s going to develop.  With Roman, everything is very precise, close to the last detail which I also find very fun and very interesting. I have great pleasure in working with both of them.
Q: We are going to close with a clip from Katyn.  Tell us why you want to close with this film.
PE: We wanted to show the mechanism of the crime. There was a great deal of improvision with actors and with the stunts and it was all shot very quickly and shows the cruelty of the situation, filmed with a handheld camera.
Q:Thanks very much Pawel Edelman for talking to us tonight.
PE: Thank you very much.
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Manhunt (2012) **** Oblawa Kinoteka 2013

Director: Marcin Kryzysztalowicz
Script: Marcin Kryzysztalowicz
Producer: Krysztof Gredzinski, Malgorzata Jurczak
Cast: Marcin Dorocinski, Maciej Stuhr, Sonia Bohosiewicz, Weronika Rosati, Andrzej Zielinski, Bartosz Zukowski, Alan Andersz, Andrzej Mastalerz

Poland  2012 96mins War Drama

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Based on a true story and shot in Slomniki, Malopolskie, this WWII Polish resistance movement flick is the epitome of grit. Rightly nominated for the Grand Prix at Montreal FF last year, Kryzysztalowicz has delivered the goods here and on a miniscule budget.

Grim in the extreme and minutely observed, utilising a finely constructed fractured narrative, Kryzysztalowicz tells his desperate story of a partisan group living close to starvation in the Polish woods. A completely convincing Dorocinski plays ‘Wydra’, a resistance soldier given the odious task of rounding up Gestapo informers from the nearby town and executing them unceremoniously; the lives of the resistance fighters depend on it.

Kryzysztalowicz doesn’t blink, doesn’t blanch, either from the immediacy of war nor the unrelenting bleakness, the on-going struggle, the existence that the partisans had to wring from the land during their exile from their homes and families. One can almost smell the soil and taste the pitiful stew.

As one has come to expect now from Polish fare, the cinematography is again exemplary, here from the very experienced and award-winning Arkadiusz Tomiak.

It’s nine years since Kryzysztalowicz last made a film and let it be hoped he doesn’t have to wait as long before delivering another. His script, like the story it is based on is wiry and honed, stripped bare of any fat, any spare. The acting is superb throughout and the story smartly told. The very evident humanity lifting it above the standard war pic.

It’s the tale, if indeed any were needed, about the extremity of war and what it makes people capable of, once there is simply nothing left for them in life, once brutality has left its bootprint indelibly on their souls and, by extension, forces you to ask of yourself- what would you do? How would you react, given the same stimuli?

Go with a strong nerve, but go. These stories need to be told and, moreover, they need never to be forgotten. AT

The Tenant (1976) ****

Director: Roman Polanski,

Writers: Roman Polanski, Gerard Brach.

Cast: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, Shelley Winters, Jo Van Fleet

Producers: Andrew Braunsberg, Alain Sarde

Original Music: Philippe Sarde

126mins **** Thriller

The Tenant is the last in the ‘Apartment Trilogy’ following Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby and is a faithful adaptation of the 1964 novel Le Locataire Chimerique. Not only does Roman Polanski play the leading role of Trelkovsky, a Polish emigré, in this twisted psychodrama, but it could also be described as his most obliquely “personal” film and a allegory of the outsider in society: a self-parody his public image and of the elements that his audiences have taken as being distinctively ‘Polanskian’.

Dark and unsettling and steeped in doom, it is a portrait of paranoia centering on a shy and retiring bank clerk who rents a Paris apartment from which the former tenant committed suicide. While Trelkovsky remains a cypher, he gradually takes on the guise of Simone Choule, the previous occupant of the rue des Pyrénées.

It’s a commandingly persuasive and subtle performance from Polanski and so pervasive that you actually start to question your own sanity as the storyline unravels. Strangely he received no acting credit for the role.  It demonstrates Polanski’s particularly brand of enigmatic psychosis: the outsider’s descent into self-inflicted purgatory that eventually becomes self-fulfilling or does it?   Underscored by a suavely syncopated soundtrack from Philippe Sarde and a standout cameo by Shelley Winters as the concierge; this is quintessential seventies Polanski. MT

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Dance of the Vampires aka The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)

 Director: Roman Polanski

Writers: Roman Polanski, Gerard Brach
Cast: Jack MacGowran, Roman Polanski, Alfie Bass, Sharon Tate, Ferdy Mayne, Iain Quarrier, Terry Downes | 108 mins  Comedy Horror

An old professor and his apprentice hunt down vampires and rescue a damsel in distress in a remote part of Transylvania.

Dance of the Vampires is a stylish antidote to the regular slew of vampire films. Hilarious, grotesque and weirdly compelling, it was Polanski’s first real acting performance (as Alfred, the apprentice) and his first outing in Panavision colour. Douglas Slocombe’s expert camerawork compliments the fabulous sets inspired by Eastern European folklore and, in particular, Jewish folklore showcased in the heightened performances of Alfie Bass and Jessica Robins as the Innkeepers, Mr and Mrs Shagal.

There are also some lewd moments keeping the tone light, but occasionally running the risk of it drifting into Carry On territory. The first half of this horror spoof set in a Transylvanian boarding house is uneven and slightly jumpy.  It also suffered from being heavily edited down from 148mins to 91 mins but the film improves dramatically once the Professor and Alfred move on to the Vampire’s castle.

Polanski was a keen painter and echoes of Marc Chagall’s surrealism can be seen in the costumes and imagery. In fact, the film explores the lightless of tone in Polish folkloric culture that we don’t get to hear about in baroque folklore and is actually a far cry from the style of Hammer House of Horror.

There is a fairytale quality to the film that comes through in the enchanting set pieces reminscent of the Polish Avantgarde.  And an absurdist aspect: the main characters of Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) and Mr Shetal are ridiculous in a cleverly stylised way.  And the Midnight Ball scene has a surreal edge to it that’s extremely funny in parts.  There’s even a kinky vignette featuring Alfred with Count Von Krolock’s Herbert (Iain Quarrier) with homosexual undertones.

Krzysztof Komeda’s needling original score is delicately composed to be spine-chilling and light-hearted to leaven some of the more frightening scenes. And there are horrific moments particularly in the opening sequence. Ferdy Mayne manages to be both comical and sinister as the Count. Sharon Tate gives an inspired turn as Sarah Shetal, the damsel in distress. The part was originally intended for Jill St John but Sharon took over in a role that was to change the course of her life: she went on to marry Polanski.

Many disregard this film as unimportant largely due to its billing as a comedy spoof of heightened melodrama.  But it really belongs to a specialised horror genre and draws on the deviant strains of sixties art-horror such as the Castle of the LIving Dead (1960) or even the Polish film The Hour Glass Sanatorium (1973).  If you’re interested in Polanski and his ingenious work, then this film is one you absolutely have to see. MT


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