Clergy (2018)

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Direction: Wojciech Smarzowski
Country: Poland

A rabble-rousing glimpse into clerical scandals become disturbing on several levels in Clergy, an unexpected Poland box-office hit directed by Wojciech Smarzowski, whose works always feel like tough nuts to crack for the ones in command of that country. The director is known for his severe tone and denunciatory bluntness, aspects mirrored in previous efforts such as The Dark House (2009), a bitter look at corruption and greediness in the communist Civic Militia, Traffic Department (2013), where the weaknesses of a debased Warsaw Police Department bare naked, and Rose (2011), a historical drama with the ethnic nationalism that crushed the Masurian people as the topic.

Even though this film is categorized as a black comedy, there are very few reasons to laugh as we follow three Catholic priests, all survivors from a devastating fire, being caught in a series of embarrassing transgressions that are systematically covered up by sovereign ecclesiastics.

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Father Andrzej Kukula (Arkadiusz Jakubik) is accused to rape an altar boy and now faces the wrath of the local people; the supercilious Father Leszek Lisowski (Jacek Braciak) is a curia worker who deliberately sins through bribery and greediness; the alcoholic Father Tadeusz Trybus (Robert Wieckiewicz) gets his younger housekeeper pregnant, encouraging her to abort. Each of them has corruption staining their souls, just like the opulent Archbishop Mardowicz (Janusz Gajos), who wants to build a sanctuary with dirty money.

With the polemics invading a country that is right-winged and predominantly Catholic, Smarzowski now deals with vigorous accolades on one hand and serious threats on the other. He seems to have put the finger right in the center of the wound with this strongly thematic bleak tale. Although far from outstanding in its execution, the film served to re-initiate inflamed yet necessary debates about well-known abuses in the Catholic Church worldwide.

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Mug (2018)

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Direction: Malgorzata Szumowska
Country: Poland

Watching Mug, the latest dramedy by Polish writer/director Malgorzata Szumowska (Body; In The Name Of), was a very cold experience. What should have been emotionally corrosive ends up in a sterilized pretense that impels us to pity a man dealing with acceptance and identity problems after a face transplant.

The story is set in a bucolic Polish town on Christmas time, where the heavy-metal devotee Jacek (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz), lives calmly and happily among relatives. Right after proposing to his dancer girlfriend, Dagmara (Malgorzata Gorol), Jacek has a nearly fatal accident at work that makes him undergo several facial surgeries and reappear several months later with a completely new face. He also struggles with speaking, eating, and swallowing in such a way that his grandmother doesn’t recognize him anymore.

Fortunately, generous support comes from his sister, Iwona (Agnieszka Podsiadlik), who, despite strong and steadfast, was unable to help him get a disability pension from the government. What keeps hurting him the most is the fact that Dagmara left without a word, only to be dragged into a vortex of excesses where the emotional decadence is a serious threat.

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The jocular posture is often dark-tinged and extends to Christianity, mirrored in a few controversial confessions at church, the irony that stems from the largest statue of Jesus is being constructed nearby, and a sham exorcism that felt more ridiculous than impressive. With true emotions left in the lurch, Mug ended up a nuisance, never finding the right balance between laughs and tears.

Despite some accurate remarks about her native country, Szumowska couldn’t dissimulate the heavy-handedness in her processes, being less interested in giving a decent resolution to the tragedy than overtly mocking about it. Mug is uninspired and forgettable.

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Cold War (2018)

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Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
Country: Poland / France

Cold War, the new drama from the acclaimed Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love, Ida), sets a painfully moving story about two musicians in love, whose relationship is curbed by the austere post-war regime of a Stalinist Poland. Bearing the stamp of a classic, the film is tinged with shades of Truffaut and enjoyable musical moments that range from local folk to jazz. The script was loosely based on the director's parents and the time frame of its narrative spans 15 years.

In 1949, while auditioning for the national ensemble, Zula (Joanna Kulig) amazes Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), a talented pianist and musical director, not only with her pure voice but also with her natural beauty. They become secret lovers, engendering a plan to escape to France while in Berlin for a public performance. Wiktor actually makes his way to Paris, where he becomes a jazz musician and arranger, while the inflexible Zula deliberately misses the opportunity to join him and follow the dream.

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They reunite briefly in Yugoslavia years later, and then in Paris, time when she was already a married woman - “It didn’t count” she explains, because it wasn't made official by the church. Despite the bliss of the encounter and the productive musical collaboration, the two lovers had changed with the time, especially Wiktor, who became an inexorable businessman. In turn, Zula gets more and more insecure about their relationship. She makes the decision of going back to Poland, where they met once again in 1964 in strange circumstances. He is punished with prison for having betrayed the nation, a situation that forces her to marry the despicable Lech Kaczmarek (Borys Szyc), the orchestra’s highly influential manager, who was always attracted to her.

Wrapped in deepest melancholy, Cold War has no idle or frivolous scenes since everything fits and flows under Pawlikowski's masterful direction. It is a simply told, beautifully composed piece of work in which the black-and-white cinematography by Lukasz Zal enhances the dramatic tones of a decadent and ultimately tragic romance. You will ask yourself if the mishap was created by personal choices or simply fate. It’s hard to judge, but I would say a bit of both.

Spoor (2017)

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Directed by Agnieszka Holland
Country: Poland

Spoor”, the 16th fictional feature by Polish writer/director Agnieszka Holland, slides into swampy ground, never attaining the impressive prowess of works such as “Angry Harvest”, “Europa, Europa”, and “In Darkness”, which elevated the cineaste's reputation, assuring her a place in the international cult film circle.
 
Based on the novel Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, who also helped co-writing the script, the story focuses on Janina Duszejko (Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka), a retired, auto-sufficient, astrology enthusiast, and highly neurotic schoolteacher who is a staunch advocate for animal rights, a problematic task in her remote small town located in Poland, next to the border with the Czech Republic, since the hunting season is seen with tremendous enthusiasm by the majority of the inhabitants. Most of them, backed by scornful police officers, shoot at everything that moves, and that might have been the reason for the vanishing of Dusjejko’s two beloved dogs.

When unexplainable crimes start victimizing the local hunters, the wrathful Ms. Duszejko sees her name on the list of suspects appointed by the police. Would this aging, fragile woman be capable to use force and do justice with her own hands?

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The performance by Mandat-Grabka is diligent, and yet she couldn’t save the film from that sort of irritating cathartic neurosis that puts the finger in the wound without devising a proper or satisfying outcome. To tell the truth, Holland showed an embarrassing indecision about which direction to take, toggling between the activist drama, the faltering thriller, and the shabby comedy. She ends up compromising the story with a powerless, almost aleatory mix of the cited options.

Besides the main character, we see a bunch of loners attempting to fill a bit more the unfocused main plot with distracting sub-plots that feel more ludicrous than fulfilling. Even with promising pouches of intrigue and an interesting, atypical character, we don’t get a full delivery of that promise. I’m remembering of Carlos Saura’s “The Hunt”, whose minimal plot and narrative simplicity creates far more tension than “Spoor”, a mere disjointed fiddle-faddle whose real joy comes from the beautiful hazy landscapes and the morbid human decomposition captured by the lens of the skilled cinematographers, Jolanta Dylewska and Rafal Paradowski, along with the dark chamber music composed by Antoni Lazarkiewicz. As for the rest, it doesn’t really live up to its premise.

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Afterimage (2017)

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Directed by Andrzej Wajda
Country: Poland

The name Andrzej Wajda assuredly brings good memories to the most attentive cinephiles because the celebrated Polish filmmaker, who left us last year at the age of 90, was the one responsible for masterpieces such as the 50’s war trilogy “A Generation”, “Kanal”, and “Ashes and Diamonds”, and some wise proletariat observations such as “Man of Iron”, “Man of Marble”, and “The Promised Land”.

Biographic dramas like “Danton”, “Korczak”, and “Walesa, Man of Hope”, also occupied an important section of Wajda’s filmography, and “Afterimage”, about the avant-garde Polish painter Wladyslaw Strzeminski, concludes a distinguished career filled with numerous prizes.

The flawless Boguslaw Linda embodies the noble painter and art professor who resisted to the devouring advances of the Communist party in Poland after the post-war years.

Despite had lost one leg and one arm when serving in the First World War, Strzeminski is depicted as a very active man and a zealous pedagogue, capable of captivating the students with the challenging ‘Theory of Vision’, a product of his own reflection that comprehends art, freedom of expression, and perception of life. 

As the creator of the first art school in Poland and the second in Europe, he is a highly respected figure among enthusiasts of the modern art. However, his personal life became a bit messy after his wife, also a vanguard artist, had left him for unknown reasons to die alone in a cold hospital in Lodz, where they lived. Things got worse when he refused to corroborate the totalitarian party’s ideas of social realism. From then on, his visionary capacities were totally discarded by the government members who, considering him a traitor and an agitator, forbade him to work and teach. The professor was banned from the Lodz’s State Higher School of the Visual Arts, which he co-founded, and couldn’t even buy materials for his paintings.

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The underestimated artist still receives his most devoted students at home. After a few months without work, he can only rely on their help, especially Roman (Tomasz Wlosok) and Hania (Zofia Wichlacz), who were very dear to him, especially in the most difficult phase of his life. Also, his friendship with the poet Julian Przybos (Krzysztof Pieczynski) was maintained until his depressing last days.

Another essential aspect covered by Wajda is the somewhat cold relationship between Strzeminski and his forlorn young daughter, Nika (Bronislawa Zamachowska), despite her unremitting concern about his health - "you smoke too much!” she used to say.

Impeccably photographed by Pawel Edelman (“The Pianist”, “Ray”), “Afterimage” is a well-told story that eschews any sort of abstraction or ambiguity. It rather prefers to validate a panoply of emotions associated with the decadent condition of a man who, even deprived of a dignified life, never succumbed to the temptation of letting political ideologies interfere with what should remain pure and untouched.

Even though I didn’t need to make any effort to follow the story until its very last minute, there was never a concrete climax or an occasional emotional swirl in its storytelling. For this reason, when the film came to an end, I naturally started to think about Nika, wondering what could have happened to her, rather than in Strzeminski’s terrible suffering.

Nevertheless, the film is a decent farewell from Mr.Wajda, whose passionate dedication to his chosen subjects and the honest way he addressed them, will be missed by every world cinema aficionado.

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The Last Family (2016)

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Directed by Jan P. Matuszynski
Country: Poland

The Last Family”, a very humorous yet unsettling biographical drama about the Polish dystopian-surrealist painter Zdzislaw Beksinski, starts with a funny lightness, develops with an enthralling wittiness between the lines, and ends with a harrowing murder scene. Even with death, suicide, and illness playing influential roles in the life of the Beksinskis, the film embraced a spirited mood throughout that was fiercely swept aside with the appalling finale.

The smartly and effortlessly mounted account begins in 1977 and ends in 2005, the year that Zdzislaw, a bit debilitated due to aging, was brutally stabbed to death at his Warsaw apartment by a 19-year-old with whom he was familiar.

At the beginning, and to better set the tone, Jan P. Matuszynski, who directed from a screenplay by Robert Bolesto (“The Lure”), stages an amiable conversation occurred in 2005 between the painter and his chronicler friend, Piotr Dmochowski (Andrzej Chyra). The well-disposed Zdzislaw, superbly played by the veteran actor Andrzej Seweryn, imagines how amazing would be programming a supercomputer to perform some adjustments in Alicia Silverstone according to his sexual fantasies and whims. The story then winds back to 1977 when he and his wife, Zofia (Aleksandra Konieczna), visit and inspect an old apartment in Warsaw to accommodate their only son, Tomasz (Dawid Ogrodnik), a selfish and suicidal neurotic who would become a popular radio presenter, movie translator, and music journalist in the following years. Tomasz struggles permanently with himself, tormented by his flagrant inability to maintain a proper relationship with a woman. 

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His parents have their respective mothers living with them. When together, the two elder women try to guess who is going to die first in the family. They both bet on Tomasz, but his recurring suicide attempts won’t be successful until the Christmas Eve 1999, time when his father located him dead in his apartment. Ironically, Zdzislaw, who considered suicide an act of courage, congratulates his son for finally having found peace.
One year before, the painter had lost his dear wife to a fatal aneurysm. By that time, besides painting to sell abroad, he was a bit obsessed with making homemade videos, his favorite hobby.

Mr. Matuszynski’s directorial methodology, whether pleasantly elaborated or painfully raw, has a crucial impact on the way the drama evolves.
 
Packed with dauntless shots and enlightened by the top-notch performances of Seweryn and Ogrodnik, “The Last Family” also scintillates with major production values with prominence for the appropriate period settings and costume design, an unbreakable storytelling suitable to the challenging structure, and an arresting soundtrack spanning several decades. This is an arty biopic not to be missed.

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The Lure (2017)

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Directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska
Country: Poland

Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska chooses a horror musical tale with a kitsch look for her debut feature. “The Lure” was written by Robert Bolesto and stars Michalina Olszańska and Marta Mazurek as Golden and Silver, respectively, two siren sisters who come ashore with the promise of eating no one. 
Both actresses also perform in “Holga Hepnarova” whose NY premiere is scheduled for March 24th.

The story, set in Warsaw in the 80s, takes us to a nightclub bathed in disco sound and populated by quirky creatures of the night. The boss (Zygmunt Malanowicz) is more than happy to introduce his new attraction called ‘Figs N’ Dates’: two smiley mermaids singing, stripping, and exhibiting their long fish tails while partially immersed in a tank filled with water.
What almost no one imagines is that these beautiful creatures can also be dangerous in several circumstances, getting a vampiresque physiognomy while eating human flesh.

The two sisters are different in nature. Golden is more adventurous, whimsical, and sly. Her soul is dark, just like her hair, especially when she feels lonely and craving for blood. She befriends with Triton (Marcin Kowalczyk), a reptilian creature and messenger of the sea (according to Greek mythology), here disguised of punk music rocker.
Less aggressive, Silver dreams of becoming human, especially after falling for Mietek (Jakub Gierszal), the nightclub’s bass player. She’s willing to go into surgery and replace her monumental fish tail for a pair of legs and a vagina. However, there’s a myth saying that if she cut her tail off, she will lose her voice. Also, she can be turned into sea foam if the man whom she falls in love with, marries another woman.

Relying on other crazy characters like the cabaret’s diabetic drummer (Andrzej Konopka) and singer Krysia (Kinga Preis), Smoczynska orchestrates everything in an entertaining way but with a few rhythmic displacements. The blood, reserved for a slightly gore finale, runs in small doses but it’s not really essential to make this fantasy successful.

 “The Lure” can be so boorishly reckless on some occasions and freshly delicious in others. Its production, with songs and choreography inclusive, can be classified as modestly ambitious.
The positive thing is that I've never lost the interest in the story, no matter how ridiculous or insane it was.

Down, But Not Out! (2015)

Down, But Not Out! (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Miguel Gaudêncio
Country: Poland

Movie Review: This 71-minute small-scale Polish documentary, directed by the Portuguese, Miguel Gaudêncio, superficially gazes at feminine boxing in Poland. The director follows a team of four boxers and their trainer during 24 hours. Evincing pictorial qualities in its well-calibrated black-and-white images, “Down But Not Out!” doesn’t find much depth in the characters, failing to establish any exciting connection between the viewers and the protagonists. The film presents too much of unexciting fights, and too little about the brave Daria, Anna, Agnieszka, and Alicja, who keep being motivated by their talkative coach, Przemyslaw. The team spends one night in a small motel in the city of Poznan, where the next day they’re going to participate in a tournament. The pic deviates our attention from the women by also presenting men’s fights, more muscled and intense, but irrelevant to the story. After stepping into the ring for the first time, each pugilist shows more or less anxiety and eagerness to prove what they worth. But for me, these natural reactions weren’t enough to shape them accordingly because I still wanted to know more about their lives and personalities. There's a moment of frustration when an opponent decides not to fight Agnieszka due to health reasons, which is not particularly strong. An interesting aspect is when she makes reference to the diets and all the efforts put through, so they can be sufficiently prepared to compete. The combats are adorned with an often-intrusive synth score that projects the film more into a video clip rather than a real study. Boxing is not one my favorite sports, however, that fact wasn’t the motive for my detachment. I’ve found little substance here, and the only explanation is that Mr. Gaudêncio doesn’t have much of a story to consolidate his nice images.

Warsaw 44 (2014)

Warsaw 44 (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jan Komasa
Country: Poland

Movie Review: Love and hate are expressed in so many different ways in “Warsaw 44”, the latest narrative feature from Polish filmmaker Jan Komasa (“Suicide Room”). This war drama, set in occupied Poland, is just another story about the Resistance facing Nazi oppressors, failing to add anything relevant to the theme when compared with other recent holocaust pieces of the same country like “In Darkness”, “Ida”, or the not so successful but acceptable “Aftermath”. To tell the truth, Komasa seemed just interested in present us with a festival of explosions, agony, death, and gutted people on the verge of madness. It’s also a love story shattered by the cruelty of war, but lightly handled and unconvincing in its cynical posture. Along its exhaustive 130 minutes, we follow Jasio, a young man who takes care of his depressive mother (a renowned actress) and sensitive little brother, after his father has been carried off by war. Despite having promised to his mother that he would stay out of trouble, Jasio swears loyalty to the Fatherland and joins a group of friends in the fierce battle to retrieve the already devastated city. Prone to be a hero, the courageous Jasio will face the horrors of war and witness his family being killed, shot in the head. Hopeless, wound and apathetic, can the power of love still save him? “Warsaw 44” is not completely balanced in its approach, toggling between festive companionships and heroic acts in its first two parts, just to enter in 'gruesome mode' in the last third. While some chaotic scenes seemed too orderly put together to be real, others touch the grotesque – how about human flesh and blood falling from the skies after a bomb burst? In a saturated genre, the film relies too much on the graphical side to impress. Mr. Komasa should know this is not enough.

Pod Mocnym Aniolem (2014)

Pod Mocnym Aniolem (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Wojciech Smarzowski
Country: Poland

Movie Review: The films from Polish filmmaker Wojciech Smarzowski are always interesting to follow, no matter what theme he chooses – whether the dark crime thriller of “The Dark House”, the humorous drama of “The Wedding”, the coldness of war in “Rose”, or the severe accusations of corruption and power abuse made by Polish police in “Traffic Department” – each of them had something valuable to say in its harshness and objective rawness. “Pod Mocnym Aniolem” (translated “The Mighty Angel”) is another powerful drama focused on alcoholism and based on Jerzy Pilch’s successful fourth novel with the same title. The film follows Jerzy (Robert Wieckiewicz), an intelligent and talented writer who can’t keep off from the bottles of vodka, even doing frequent treatments in a rehabilitation house and attending group sessions. Evincing a corrosive sense of humor, his denial takes him to a cynicism and to a spiral of degradation that not even the woman of his life is capable to bear. He wanders and writes in a sort of limbo state where reality and imagination interweave. We are taken through the stories told by other alcoholics, but also to Jerzy’s memories of his drunken father. Horrible images haunt us, depicting embarrassing situations, deliriums, vomiting, and crazy hangovers. It’s a sad film, about suffering, about loss, about fate… Its finale is simply devastating, even cruel. I was touched in two ways – one given the last hope sought by Jerzy, and the other through the creepy loneliness that can ruin everything again. Although with a slow-burning start, “Pod Mocnym Aniolem” won me over.

Life Feels Good (2013)

Life Feels Good (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Maciej Pieprzyca
Country: Poland

Movie Review: Polish filmmaker Maciej Pieprzyca, inspired by true events, brings us a compelling drama about a young man, suffering from cerebral palsy, who passes great part of his life trying to learn how to communicate. The boy is called Mateusz, who curiously narrates the film despite his inability to speak. Leaving that question aside, “Life Feels Good” is a respectable drama with some lessons to absorb regarding these special persons who refuse to be reduced to just a vegetative state. Presented in little chapters, we can follow Mateusz’s path since the 80’s towards his own personal victory, when he was given a chance to communicate while staying in a clinic for mentally disabled persons. His appreciation for the opposite sex was pretty clear, and he promptly reacts to a new volunteer with whom he creates a tight bond. However, her intentions were different and not everything will become good memories for the patient Mateusz. Using clear and sharp images, “Life Feels Good” wasn’t sentimental at all, showing that resignation is the last word to be learned by Mateusz, who clearly prefers those crucial sentences that follow him throughout his life experience: ‘never give up’ and ‘everything’s fine’. Less humorous than “The Sessions”, as well as less intense than “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, this Polish drama was engaging but not mind-blowing. Fantastic performances by Dawid Ogrodnik and Kamil Tkacz who played the adult and young Mateusz, respectively.

Jack Strong (2014)

Jack Strong (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Wladyslaw Pasikowski
Country: Poland

Movie Review: With “Jack Strong”, writer/director Wladyslaw Pasikowski provides us with a thrilling espionage film based on the real story of Polish Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski who got known as one of the most important spies for CIA in the midst of Cold War tensions. Disillusioned with the Soviet domination and the loss of identity of his own country, Kuklinski decides to risk his life and his family’s by revealing important secrets of state, including secret nuclear operations. Using the code name ‘Jack Strong’ to communicate with the ‘enemy’, Kuklinski ended up awarded by President Carter for his glorious yet risky contribution. The story is told in flashbacks and was suspenseful enough to get me seated without move for more than two hours. Expect a constant asphyxiating atmosphere, tense score, and strong performances by the magnificent cast, which strengthened even more a well-connected story and its intriguing characters. With all these positive aspects we also have a fantastic car chase, one of the most spectacular scenes of this political thriller, along with a fulminant, bitter ending that left me perplexed. Shot with rigor and set up in an attractive old-fashioned way, Pasikowski proves that Polish cinema still has something valuable to give, even if in most of the cases, is invariably centered in WWII. If “Aftermath”, his previous film, was a disappointment, “Jack Strong” comes as an impressive feature and is solidly recommended.

Ida (2013)

Ida (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Pawel Pawlikowski
Country: Poland / Denmark

Movie Review: After his first four fictional feature films have been made in UK, Polish born filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski returns to his country of birth to shoot “Ida”, a simple, sad, and mesmerizing drama set in the 60’s about a young nun of Jewish origin who tries to find out what happened to her missing family. Anna was raised in an orphanage since childhood and is about to take her vows. In spite of the letters sent along the years to her aunt Wanda Gruz, her only living relative, she never got any reply back. Impelled by her prioress she leaves the convent to meet Wanda, a decadent former state prosecutor for the Poland’s Stalinist regime, who discloses that Anna’s real name is Ida Lebenstein, and her parents have no graves, since their bodies lie buried in the middle of some woods or lake. Together, they will look for the truth about Ida’s parents, an atrocious reality that will also disclose Wanda’s own secret. I was glad to see Pawlikowski returning to the right track and compelling stories after the misstep “The Woman in the Fifth”, since Ida’s story is not just about the past of her family but also the final disappointment with the exterior world. Deep silences and a highly aesthetical black-and-white cinematography take us to the European cinema of other times – from Bresson to Bergman (presence of religion), adorned with a score that had its peak with a live version of Coltrane’s “Naima”, and distinct performances. With great sensibility, Pawlikowski presents us one of the best works of his career, a modern treasure in tones of classic.

The Closed Circuit (2013)

The Closed Circuit (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ryszard Bugajski
Country: Poland

Movie Review: Known for the 1989 magnificent thriller “Interrogation”, Ryszard Bugajski returns to direction after a four-year gap with “The Closed Circuit”, another drama/thriller based on real events that devastated even more Poland’s moral and political dubious reputation. The story dates back to 2003 in Gdansk, where three smart entrepreneurs launch a huge high-tech electronics factory backed up with quality Danish equipment. Their success soon became coveted by corrupt, influent agents who worked for government law enforcement bodies. They will set up a dirty scheme to seize the factory and arrest the innocent owners, traumatizing them and their families forever. Characterized by its straightforwardness and talkative approach, Bugajski was able to infuriating me in a good sense, since the story seemed very real in its way to depict the abuses of power, greediness, and contempt for others’ lives, with strong ability and determination. The actors were perfect in their roles, especially Janusz Gajos as Kostrzewa, a frustrated and greedy district prosecutor with a shameful past, and his vassal Kamil Slodowsky, a thorough investigator who never hesitates to falsify evidences whenever threatened. Solidly structured, “The Closed Circuit” creates the required impact in its clear observation of the new Poland. Curiously, this accusing satirical feast didn’t receive any financial support from Polish government.

Aftermath (2012)

Aftermath (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Wladyslaw Pasikowski
Country: Poland / others

Movie Review: Written and directed by Wladyslaw Pasikowski who has been dedicated to TV series since 2004, “Aftermath” is a Polish drama involving two brothers, decided to unveil a dark secret hidden by the whole village concerning the massacre of Jews in times of German occupation. One of the Kalima brothers, Franciszek, returned from America where he was working in asbestos removal and demolitions. His absence from his father’s funeral made his brother Jozef resentful, but in his rude way he will show a good side after finding some grave stones buried in an old deserted road. The brothers were not well seen by the community, a problem that came from the times when their father was alive. Technically there is not much to point here, with the film accomplishing its purposes of showing an oppressive atmosphere, but in terms of story and dialogue I was disappointed. The story drags itself for long periods, evincing sluggishness on the moves and methods that made me stop searching for the secret and boringly wait for the revelations, which were not surprising at all. Several times, a false tension was created without consequences, while in other situations the absence of that tension was unjustified and even required. Set up with dark tones and with a photography that remind me the 80’s, “Aftermath” never impressed, ending up in a sentimental family fuss that, once for all, thwarted its possibilities of success. It was considered best feature film at Jerusalem Film Fest.

Imagine (2013)

Imagine (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Andrzej Jakimowski
Country: Poland / Portugal / others

Movie Review: Shot in Lisbon and spoken predominantly in English with some occasional Portuguese, “Imagine” is the third feature film from Polish director Andrzej Jakimowski, better known for 2007’s “Tricks”. The film follows Ian (Edward Hogg), an enigmatic blind teacher who arrives at a residential school for blind to make a total revolution through unconventional methods. Sustaining that blind people are able to walk without a cane, Ian will embark in an adventurous but dangerous trip into the outside world when he challenges quiet Eva (Alexandra Maria Lara) for a walk in the bright sunlight of Lisbon’s streets. Other curious young man, Serrano (Melchior Derouet), wants to follow them, showing signs of fascination by Ian’s sites descriptions and rich imagination. However, disillusion and mistrust will come up in this game of sounds, where we, viewers, also imagine and search for something well aware of our senses. Innovative in concept and very European in style, we have here a good alternative to Saramago’s “Blindness”, which cinematic adaptation by Fernando Meirelles didn’t run so well. Even if sometimes we may notice an inconstant pace and intermittent efficiency in the narrative, “Imagine” became an unprecedented experience and deserves a good, relaxed watching. Jakimowski was considered best director and won the audience award at Warsaw.

Traffic Department (2013)

Traffic Department (2013)
Directed by: Wojciech Smarzowski
Country: Poland

Review: Wojciech Smarzowski returns with the raw and aggressive style that characterizes him to fiercely criticize the Polish police system and much more. “Traffic Department” has been a massive success in Poland, and depicts a period in the life of seven conniving cops whose daily life in Warsaw is outrageously filled with sex, alcohol, drugs, and bribery. If this wasn’t enough, there is also racism and corruption associated with governmental people. The story starts without focus on any member in particular, but little by little we get to know that officer Krol is the man to follow, when he became the main suspect of Sargent Lisowski’s mysterious death. There were plausible reasons behind this accusation but Krol will do everything to clear his name and find the truth. I think that Smarzowski, in his urge to denounce this dark side of his own country, took some scenes to extreme levels, especially those depicting the police officers partying. In the other hand, its sarcastic and sturdy vision on the matter has the goal to open the people’s eyes for a problem with great impact in society. The structure is not always clear in its orientation, and sometimes we need to make an extra-effort to understand all the connections. The hasty and abrupt editing is another factor that may not be for everyone’s taste. Even somewhat faulty in its very own poignant and gloomy way, “Traffic Department” uses a strong determination to make us aware of a brutal reality. 

Rose (2011)

Directed by: Wojciech Smarzowski
Country: Poland

Plot: A harrowing tale of survival centers on Rose, a Masurian woman, whose husband, a German soldier, was killed in the war.
Review: I have a great admiration for Wojciech Smarzowski's work. “Rose”, his new feature film, is even murkier than “Dark House”(2009). Not so dynamic or appealing as this last one, though very compelling. With a brutal story inspired from historical facts, we can understand how the Masurian people started disappearing along the time until become completely extinct. Bleak, with strong content, this is another movie to take into account in the very solid career of a remarkable director.
Relevant awards: Best film - audience and critics (Polish Film Fest.); best actor (Fantasporto).

Between Two Fires (2010)

Directed by: Agnieszka Lukasiak
Country: Poland/Sweden

Plot: A young mother with her daughter escapes Belarus just to end up in a refugee camp in northern Sweden.
Quick comment: A distressful story about a mother and her daughter, trying to escape from Belarusian Mafia to avoid sexual and physical abuse. Once in Sweden, hoping to be given permission to stay, they will not rest as expected. The film centers on the refugee’s problems in a legit way. But in the other hand, it’s frustratingly invariable in its suspenseful moments and lingers too much over sex scenes. You will not be disappointed, but you will not be asking for more either.
Relevant awards: -

Suicide Room (2011)

Directed by: Jan Komasa
Country: Poland

Plot: Dominik stops going to school and withdraws, drifting into a virtual world where there are no hateful classmates.
Quick comment: Dominik is a lonesome troubled young adult. A couple of incidents at high school and the lack of attention from his dysfunctional family, lead him to join a site on the Internet entitled “Suicide Room”, in order to get help. Unfortunately, this call for help became just a game for the other members. A dark polish tale that leaves its mark, unveiling how harmful this kind of virtual refuges can be. Be aware of the depressing atmosphere.
Relevant awards: Best film (Geneva, Molodist, Polish and Stockholm Film Fests)