Archive for September, 2009

Wojciech J. Has on DVD

As the Barbican Centre in London gears up for a long overdue part retrospective of the career of the man I recently described in Sight & Sound as Polish cinema’s only authentic surrealist, I thought I’d post another DVD overview for the benefit of those who can’t get there - or indeed those who can, and who’d like to explore further. The good news is that virtually all of Has’s features are available somewhere, but the downside is that many are currently restricted to Polish-language French-subtitled editions. But there are rumours that those masters will be released on Polish DVDs in due course, and if precedent is any guide they should have English subtitles.

The main labels responsible are Malavida Films (France), Mr Bongo Films (UK), Best Film Co and TVP (Poland). Image Entertainment’s The Saragossa Manuscript is now out of print, but copies are still floating around eBay, Amazon and elsewhere.

In chronological order, including shorts:

1947 - Brzozowa Street (Ulica Brzozowa, IMDB)

  • Included in TVP’s The Noose (Pętla), Region 0 PAL. No subtitles, though my review should fill in a few gaps.

1947 - Harmony (Harmonia, IMDB)

  • Included in TVP’s One-Room Tenants (Wspólny pokój), Region 0 PAL. No subtitles, but no spoken content.

1950 - My City (Moje miasto, IMDB)

  • Included in TVP’s The Noose (Pętla), Region 0 PAL. No subtitles.

1957 - The Noose (Pętla, IMDB)

  • TVP, Region 0 PAL. Optional English subtitles on main feature. Extras include unsubtitled shorts Brzozowa Street and My Town (see above).
  • Included in the fourth volume of Best Film Co’s 50 Years of the Polish Film School (50-lecie Polskiej Szkoły Filmowej, Region 0 PAL. Optional English, French, German, Russian and Polish HOH subtitles on main feature, though not brief accompanying featurette. Extensive, fully bilingual booklet in Polish and English.
  • Le Noeud coulant, Malavida, Region 0 PAL. French subtitles only.

1958 - Farewells (Pożegnania, IMDB)

  • Les Adieux, Malavida, Region 0 PAL. French subtitles only.

1959 - One-Room Tenants (Wspólny pokój, IMDB)

  • TVP, Region 0 PAL. Optional English subtitles on main feature. Extras include the dialogue-free short Harmony (see above).
  • Chambre commune, Malavida, Region 0 PAL. French subtitles only.

1960 - Goodbye to the Past (Rozstanie, IMDB)

  • Adieu jeunesse, Malavida, Region 0 PAL. French subtitles only.

1961 - Gold Dreams (Złoto, IMDB)

  • L’or de mes rêves, Malavida, Region 0 PAL. French subtitles only.

1962 - How To Be Loved (Jak być kochaną, IMDB)

  • Included in the fourth volume of Best Film Co’s 50 Years of the Polish Film School (50-lecie Polskiej Szkoły Filmowej, Region 0 PAL. Optional English, French, German, Russian and Polish HOH subtitles on main feature, though not brief accompanying featurette. Extensive, fully bilingual booklet in Polish and English.
  • L’art d’être aimée, Malavida, Region 0 PAL. French subtitles only.

1965 - The Saragossa Manuscript (Rękopis znaleziony w Saragossie, IMDB)

  • Mr Bongo Films, Region 0 PAL. English subtitles.
  • Image Entertainment, Region 0 NTSC. English subtitles.
  • Le manuscrit trouvé a saragosse, Malavida, Region 0 PAL. French subtitles only.

1966 - The Codes (Szyfry, IMDB)

  • Les codes, Malavida, Region 0 PAL. French subtitles only.

1968 - The Doll (Lalka, IMDB)

  • La poupée, Malavida, Region 0 PAL. French subtitles only.

1973 - The Hourglass Sanatorium (Sanatorium pod klepsydrą, IMDB)

  • Mr Bongo Films, Region 0 PAL. English subtitles.
  • La Clepsydre, Malavida, Region 0 PAL. French subtitles only.

1983 - An Uneventful Story (Nieciekawa historia, IMDB)

  • Une Histoire banale, Malavida, Region 0 PAL. French subtitles only.

1985 - Write and Fight (Pismak, IMDB)

  • L’Écrivain, Malavida, Region 0 PAL. French subtitles only.

1986 - The Memoirs of a Sinner (Osobisty pamiętnik grzesznika przez niego samego spisany , IMDB)

  • Journal intime d’un pêcheur , Malavida, Region 0 PAL. French subtitles only.

1988 - The Tribulations of Balthazar Kober (Niezwykła podróż Baltazara Kobera, IMDB)

  • Les Tribulations de Balthazar Kober, Malavida, Region 0 PAL. French subtitles only.

As ever, additions and corrections are most appreciated.

Posted on 28th September 2009
Under: Poland, DVD Surveys, Wojciech Jerzy Has | 1 Comment »

The Surrealist Visions of Wojciech Has

Now this is more like it!

From October 1-25, London’s Barbican Cinema is mounting an ambitious retrospective of the work of Wojciech Jerzy Has (1925-2000) - or rather a partial retrospective, since it only features five films. But I shouldn’t complain, since it’s an excellent selection that comprises his feature debut Noose (Pętla, 1958), his two early studies of post-WWII emotional fallout, Farewells (Pożegnania, 1958), How To Be Loved (Jak być kochaną, 1963) and his two best-known films The Saragossa Manuscript (Rękopis znaleziony w Saragossie, 1965) and The Hourglass Sanatorium (Sanatorium Pod Klepsydrą, 1973). The latter is based on the Bruno Schulz story of the same name, which the Quay Brothers are currently developing as their third feature - and the Barbican has also commissioned a Has-related installation from the Quays which will be unveiled at the start of the season.

Of Poland’s undisputed cinema masters, Has has always been somewhat marginalised (certainly in Britain, where he’s mainly been regarded as a one-work man; less so in France), possibly because his florid and fantastical visions didn’t chime especially well with much Polish fiction cinema. His closest rival in the Polish film surrealism stakes, Walerian Borowczyk, decamped to France at a very early stage of his career, but Has remained loyal to Poland - even spending several years as the Dean of the renowned Łódź Film School. From the very start of his career, he showed a striking individuality - Noose was initially mischaracterised as a familiar study of an alcoholic in decline, and critically dismissed as a result, but in fact it’s a far more complex portrait of a psychologically tormented individual whose dependence on alcohol is merely one of a whole raft of issues that conspires to push him over the edge - and the first of many Has protagonists who would find themselves struggling to cope in a world that’s at least as much dreamscape as reality.

The best news is that the season apparently features newly-struck 35mm prints, courtesy of the Filmoteka Narodowa (Poland’s national film archive), which will later go on tour - and the season itself was organised by the Polish Cultural Institute with the support of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of the ambitious Polska! Year project.

Posted on 28th September 2009
Under: Poland, Wojciech Jerzy Has, Retrospectives | 3 Comments »

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