Posts Tagged ‘Polish Avantgarde’

Kinoteka Film Festival 2019 | 4-18 April 2019

Oscar winner Pawel Pawlikowski will be in London to celebrate this year’s Kinoteka Polish film festival. Joining him are veteran Polish auteur KRZYSZTOF ZANUSSI with his latest film Ether, a spotlight of female filmmakers and a special Sci-fi retro strand featuring cult classic gems from STANISŁAW LEM.

Another highlight will be the latest film from maverick wild child Andrzej ŻuławskiOn the Silver Globe. The festival will also showcase the work of legendary cinematographer WITOLD SOBOCIŃSKI and a documentary exploring the provocative work of Walerian Borowczyk

OPENING NIGHT GALA at Regent Street Cinema with a screening of ANOTHER DAY OF LIFE, a beautifully animated adaptation of acclaimed Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński’s early book. 

CLOSING NIGHT GALA – Another chance to enjoy Pawel Pawlikoski’s Oscar-nominated COLD WAR’. The charismatic director will be there to present his film. The event is  followed by a dinner with live music from Zbigniew Namyslowski, former collaborator of the legendary film composer Krzysztof Komeda (The Fearless Vampire Killers/Polanski) followed by a gourmet menu inspired by Polish folk cuisine. 


Female filmmakers from Poland get their own special side-bar this year at the BFI Southbank with Jagoda Szelc’s deeply unsettling psychological horror MONUMENT, Olga Chajdas’s award- winning LGBT romance NINA and the disorientating and acclaimed new film from director of THE LURE, Agnieszka Smoczynska’s FUGUE. 


Two SCI-FI  extravaganzas are on offer at this year’s festival: A major retrospective from one of the godfathers of modern sci-fi  STANISŁAW LEM  will take place at the Barbican. This includes the rare Russian television film SOLYARIS and the East German space opera SILENT STAR. The Quay Brothers also present their film MASK followed by a panel discussion about Lem’s legacy and the challenges of adapting his work to the screen. 

Andrzej Żuławski ON THE SILVER GLOBE – will screen at the Horse Hospital alongside an exhibition of costumes and ephemera from the film. Shut down by the Communist party in 1977 after 80% of the footage was shot, the film was luckily saved by the crew who ignored orders, and Żuławski’s fantastical creativity was preserved.

KRZYSZTOF ZANUSSI – The renowned auteur will be there to present his latest film ETHER and introduce his 1971 classic FAMILY LIFE.

WITOLD SOBOCIŃSKI – the influential DoP’s work is celebrated at Close-Up Cinema with four archive screenings: Zanussi’s FAMILY LIFE, Jerzy Skolimowski’s HANDS UP!, THE HOURGLASS SANATORIUM from director Wojciech Has and Andrzej Żulawski’s THE THIRD PART OF THE NIGHT.


Taking place at Regent Street Cinema, ICA and Watermans, the New Polish Cinema programme offers a selection of ten films encompassing the exciting breadth of contemporary Polish filmmaking – from the brutal realism of Piotr Domalewski’s SILENT NIGHT to Filip Bajon’s epic costume drama THE BUTLER via the hysterically funny situational humour of Paweł Maślona’s PANIC ATTACK.


The ICA’s festival documentary strand includes an intimate look at life’s final moments in END OF LIFE and an examination of the provocative work of Walerian Borowczyk in LOVE EXPRESS: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF WALERIAN BOROWCZYK.

KINOTEKA FILM FESTIVAL 2019 | Barbican, BFI Southbank, Close Up Cinema, Frontline Club, ICA, Tate Modern, The Horse Hospital, Regent Street Cinema and Watermans Art Centre (Cambridge). 


Illumination (1973) Illuminacja | Kinoteka 2015

Director: Krzysztof Zanussi

Script: Krzysztof Zanussi

Cast: Stanislaw Latallo, Malgorzata Pritulak, Monika Dzienisiewicz-Olbrychska, Edward Zebrowski, Jan Skotnicki, Irena Horecka

Poland  1973 87mins Drama

Seminal, groundbreaking work from Zanussi, following on from Struktura Krysztalu, Pretty much every film he made went on to win at some prestigious festival or other and Illumination is no exception, taking down the Grand Prix at Locarno and Best Film at the Polish Film Festival, amongst others.

Illumination is an unapologetically male film and no doubt somewhat autobiographical; Zanussi studied Physics at Warsaw Uni before going on to graduate from that pinnacle of European moving image education Lodz Film Academy in 1966.

Charting the life journey of one Franciszek Retman, played with handsome geeky brilliance by Stanislaw Latallo. Retman a young student aspiring to study Physics at Warsaw Uni, falling in love for the first time, then the burgeoning comprehension of the reality of life in all its complexities as it tumbles along at a speed reserved for those still young enough to believe themselves immortal.

It’s a beautiful film, shot in a brave, new style yet to make its mark on the rest of the world, but emulated by film students the world over ever since, which is why it may feel so familiar stylistically to viewers now. But it is also alot more than that, covering as it does all the way back in 1973 the very contentious subject of Electric Shock Therapy (or ECT), then combining this with the efforts of one man to find himself and a sense of peace in the chaos that is Existence.

Fine, unfussy but atmospheric cinematography from Edward Klosinski and a terrific score from the prolific talent that is Wojciech Kilar, composer of over 160 scores, including Death & The Maiden, Ninth Gate and The Pianist for Polanski.

This has cinema vérité meeting heavily stylised elements head on, cartwheeling forwards with a breathless kinetic all of its own, reflecting the energy of the protagonist as much as his story. When Illumination first came out, it was heady, revolutionary stuff, the impact of which we really haven’t witnessed since.

A treat then that through the Polish Cinema Classics strand, this Kinoteka film festival is giving us a rare chance to rediscover what made Lodz Film Academy the choice of film school for generations of filmmakers.

What appears to be at first a dense impenetrable tome in the end reveals itself to be a simple, very eloquent and poetic piece. Don’t miss. A Rajan


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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