Archive for July, 2007

Krzysztof Kieślowski on DVD

The very welcome arrival of PWA’s DVD survey of Krzysztof Kieślowski documentaries earlier today made me realise that of all Polish filmmakers, his output is probably the best represented on English-friendly DVD.

So here’s a survey of what’s available with English subtitles, based on the filmography appended to Culture.pl’s admirably thorough overview of his work:

1966 - The Tram (Tramwaj, 5 mins, IMDB)

1966 - The Office (Urząd, 6 mins, IMDB)

1967 - Concert of Requests (Koncert Życzeń, 17 mins, IMDB)

1969 - From the City of Łódź (Z miasta Łodzi, 18 mins, IMDB)

  • Included in PWA’s Polish School of the Documentary: Krzysztof Kieślowski, Region 0 PAL (review: Filmjourney.org)

1970 - I Was A Soldier (Byłem żołnierzem, 16 mins, IMDB)

  • Included in PWA’s Polish School of the Documentary: Krzysztof Kieślowski, Region 0 PAL (review: Filmjourney.org)

1970 - Factory (Fabryka, 17 mins, IMDB)

1972 - Refrain (Refren, 10 mins, IMDB)

  • Included in PWA’s Polish School of the Documentary: Krzysztof Kieślowski, Region 0 PAL (review: Filmjourney.org)

1973 - Bricklayer (Murarz, 18 mins, IMDB)

  • Included in PWA’s Polish School of the Documentary: Krzysztof Kieślowski, Region 0 PAL (review: Filmjourney.org)

1974 - X-Ray (Prześwietlenie, 13 mins, IMDB)

  • Included in PWA’s Polish School of the Documentary: Krzysztof Kieślowski, Region 0 PAL (review: Filmjourney.org)

1974 - First Love (Pierwsza miłość, 52 mins, IMDB)

  • Included in PWA’s Polish School of the Documentary: Krzysztof Kieślowski, Region 0 PAL (review: Filmjourney.org)

1975 - Curriculum Vitae (Życiorys, 46 mins, IMDB)

  • Included in PWA’s Polish School of the Documentary: Krzysztof Kieślowski, Region 0 PAL (review: Filmjourney.org)

1976 - Slate (Klaps, 5 mins, IMDB)

  • Included in PWA’s Polish School of the Documentary: Krzysztof Kieślowski, Region 0 PAL (review: Filmjourney.org)

1976 - The Scar (Blizna, 112 mins, IMDB)

1976 - Hospital (Szpital, 22 mins, IMDB)

1977 - A Night Porter’s Point of View (Z punktu widzenia nocnego portiera, 17 mins, IMDB)

  • Included in Artificial Eye’s A Short Film About Killing, Region 2 PAL
  • Included in PWA’s Polish School of the Documentary: Krzysztof Kieślowski, Region 0 PAL (review: Filmjourney.org)
  • Included in Kino’s A Short Film About Killing (review: DVD Talk)
  • Included in Kino’s The Krzysztof Kieslowski Collection, Region 0 NTSC (review: DVDBeaver)
  • Included in Umbrella Entertainment’s A Short Film About Killing, Region 4 PAL (review: Michael D’s)

1978 - Seven Women of Different Ages (Siedem kobiet w różnym wieku, 16 mins, IMDB)

  • Included in PWA’s Polish School of the Documentary: Krzysztof Kieślowski, Region 0 PAL (review: Filmjourney.org)

1979 - Camera Buff (Amator, 112 mins, IMDB)

1980 - Railway Station (Dworzec, 17 mins, IMDB)

1980 - Talking Heads (Gadające głowy, 16 mins, IMDB)

1981 - Blind Chance (Przypadek, 122 mins, IMDB)

1984 - No End (Bez końca, 109 mins, IMDB)

1987 - A Short Film About Killing (Krótki film o zabijaniu, 84 mins, IMDB)

1988 - A Short Film About Love (Krótki film o miłości, 87 mins, IMDB)

1988 - Decalogue 1: Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods But Me (Dekalog, jeden, 53 mins, IMDB)

1988 - Decalogue 2: Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of the Lord Thy God in Vain (Dekalog, dwa, 57 mins, IMDB)

1988 - Decalogue 3: Honour The Sabbath Day (Dekalog, trzy, 56 mins, IMDB)

1988 - Decalogue 4: Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother (Dekalog, cztery, 55 mins, IMDB)

1988 - Decalogue 5: Thou Shalt Not Kill (Dekalog, pięć, 57 mins, IMDB)

1988 - Decalogue 6: Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery (Dekalog, sześć, 58 mins, IMDB)

1988 - Decalogue 7: Thou Shalt Not Steal (Dekalog, siedem, 55 mins, IMDB)

1988 - Decalogue 8: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness (Dekalog, osiem, 55 mins, IMDB)

1988 - Decalogue 9: Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbour’s Wife (Dekalog, dziewięć, 58 mins, IMDB)

1988 - Decalogue 10: Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbour’s Goods (Dekalog, dziesięć, 57 mins, IMDB)

1991 - The Double Life of Véronique (La double vie de Véronique, 98 mins, IMDB)

1993 - Three Colours: Blue (Trois couleurs: Bleu, 100 mins, IMDB)

1994 - Three Colours: White (Trois couleurs: Blanc, 91 mins, IMDB)

1994 - Three Colours: Red (Trois couleurs: Red, 99 mins, IMDB)

Not (yet?) available on DVD

1968 - The Photograph (Zdjęcie, 32 mins, IMDB)
1971 - Before the Rally (Przed rajdem, 16 mins, IMDB)
1972 - Between Wroclaw and Zielona Gora (Między Wrocławiem a Zieloną Górą, 10 mins, IMDB)
1972 - Principles of Safety and Hygiene in a Copper Mine (Podstawy BHP w kopalni miedzi, 21 mins, IMDB)
1972 - Workers 1971: Nothing About Us Without Us (Robotnicy ‘71: nic o nas bez nas, 47 mins, IMDB)
1973 - The Underground Passage (Przejście podziemne, 28 mins, IMDB)
1975 - Personnel (Personel, 72 mins, IMDB)
1976 - The Calm (Spokój, 70 mins, IMDB)
1977 - I Don’t Know (Nie wiem, 47 mins, IMDB)
1981 - A Short Work Day (Krótki dzień pracy, 73 mins, IMDB)
1988 - Seven Days a Week: Warsaw (Siedem dni w tygodniu, 18 mins, IMDB)

Any additions and/or corrections gratefully received.

Posted on 26th July 2007
Under: Poland, Krzysztof Kieślowski, DVD Surveys | 5 Comments »

Wajda’s War Trilogy on Film4 this week

I’ve just discovered that Andrzej Wajda’s great war trilogy - A Generation (Pokolenie, 1955), Kanal (Kanał, 1957) and Ashes and Diamonds (Popiół i diament, 1958) - is being shown on Film4 in the small hours of the next few days (there are two complete screenings scheduled on consecutive nights, starting on the mornings of Tuesday 24th and Sunday 29th July). They should be viewable free of charge by anyone with a digital television setup.

To my shame, I’ve yet to see A Generation, though its reputation as the film that almost single-handedly brought Polish cinema to the attention of the West very much precedes it - and it also has a young Roman Polanski in a supporting role. But I have seen Kanal and Ashes and Diamonds, and can’t recommend them highly enough.

Kanal translates as “sewer”, and the film is a vivid evocation of how the Polish Resistance used the Warsaw network of tunnels as their only viable means of getting anywhere near Nazi-fortified areas of the city. Unsurprisingly, it’s a dark and claustrophobic film, whose vivid evocation of its location is such that you can almost smell the dank, clammy atmosphere. Equally unsurprisingly, it remains true to the historical record by being a deeply pessimistic piece of work, which got Wajda into trouble at home because the domestic audience - for whom the events of 1944 were still well within living memory - expected something more upbeat and heroic. But had he done that, the film would have been totally and probably deservedly forgotten. (A trivia note that’s probably of no interest to anyone but me: Wladyslaw Sheybal, who plays the musician with the memorably piercing gaze, emigrated to Britain shortly afterwards, changed his professional name to Vladek Sheybal, and become one of Ken Russell’s favourite actors, playing his alter ego in The Debussy Film and The Boy Friend and Goebbels in Dance of the Seven Veils, amongst other roles).

Ashes and Diamonds inaugurated what would become a familiar Wajda device, of setting the events of a film shortly after a well-known historical epoch. Just as his 1970 film Landscape After Battle (Krajobraz po bitwie) looked at the experience of former Polish concentration camp inmates after their supposed liberation, and his latest film, Katyń, reportedly devotes at least half its running time to the aftermath of the title massacre, Ashes and Diamonds is set on the last day of World War II, and explores the dilemmas faced by Resistance fighters who have seen their world shift from the black-and-white certainties of fighting the Nazis to a far more fluid and uncertain situation. Zbigniew Cybulski garnered himself the highly misleading “Polish James Dean” tag through his portrayal of the title role, the idealistic fighter Matiej, whose botched assassination attempt at the start of the film triggers a bout of introspection that causes him to question everything that he’s hitherto stood for.

Screenings

  • A Generation is at 1.35am on Tuesday 24th July (or very late on Monday night, if that’s how you calculate these things) and 0:45 on Sunday 29th July
  • Kanal is at 1.30am on Wednesday 25th July and at 1.10 on Monday 30th July.
  • Ashes and Diamonds is at 1.10am on Thursday 26th July. The listings aren’t up yet, but I’d guess it’s also due a repeat on the morning of Tuesday 31 July.

Links

Posted on 23rd July 2007
Under: Poland, Andrzej Wajda | No Comments »

Update

Apologies for the lack of updates - things have been insanely busy over the past fortnight, what with the Ken Russell retrospective at BFI Southbank (for which I contributed a 75-minute illustrated talk and met the man himself a few days later) and various other work-related things - including an interview about Jan Švankmajer for MovieMail’s regular podcast series. (I finally bit the bullet and listened to it, and it’s not bad at all - I talk a little too fast, but that was partly because I only had the room in which we recorded it for a strictly limited period and was worried we might not be able to finish on time).

But I also spent the past fortnight working my way through PWA’s Anthology of Polish Animation DVDs, which were everything I could possibly have wished for. I ordered it from Merlin.pl, for what my credit card bill tells me was a whopping £11.34 including postage, and it would have been a bargain at two or three times the price. I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable about the history of Polish animation to comment on the choice of specific titles, but I can certainly confirm that there wasn’t a single title amongst the 28 included that didn’t have something going for it, and there were loads of discoveries - of the animators whose work I’d never seen before, Witold Giersz and Jerzy Kucia’s films made the deepest impression on me.

Even better, presentation standards were top-notch. I suspect a lot of restoration went on behind the scenes, as picture quality was startlingly good across the board, and the transfers were pretty well flawless - the only minor quibble is that the widescreen material wasn’t anamorphically enhanced, but as the vast majority of the films were in 4:3 that wasn’t a particularly big deal. The entire package is 100% English-friendly - although hardly any of the films had any spoken content, subtitles are provided for credits, other onscreen text and even song lyrics, and the menus are also available in English. The booklet contains biographies and filmographies of all the animators, and is fully bilingual in English and Polish. (There are also French menus and subtitles).

On the Eastern European cinema front, I caught a sneak preview of this year’s surprise Palme d’Or winner, Cristian Mungiu’s devastating Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days (4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile), which more than lived up to the hype. I also saw György Pálfi’s gloriously revolting Taxidermia on the big screen for the first time (which confirmed that this film really needs an audience to react to it), and finally watched his debut Hukkle on a decent (Hungarian) DVD - I’d previously reviewed both for Sight & Sound, but had to put up with timecoded DVD and VHS screeners.

Fingers crossed I’ll have time to write in more detail on all the above - I’m stuck at home with the kids while my wife is having a four-day weekend in Prague, so this might well be what keeps me sane.

Posted on 22nd July 2007
Under: Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Jan Švankmajer, Romania, György Pálfi | No Comments »

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