Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema
At the invitation of Andrzej Wajda, Martin Scorsese spent time at the Polish National Film, Television, and Theatre School in Łódź in 2011. The films Scorsese revisited there impressed him with the astonishing achievements of Poland’s national cinema in the 20th century. Through his nonprofit, the Film Foundation, in partnership with distributor Milestone Films, a selection of these films, ripe for rediscovery by a global audience, was chosen for new restorations. Embodying what Wajda called “the impertinent freedom of creativity in the cinema,” this series is nothing short of dazzling. Film descriptions courtesy of Milestone Films, except where noted. Films are screened in their original languages with English subtitles.
The series continues in January. View a trailer for the entire touring series.
Read an analysis of the films from Film Comment.
Past Events in This Series
Man of Iron was filmed in the wake of the epochal 1980 Gdansk shipyard strike and in the midst of the birth of Polish democracy. The focus, however, shifts to the morally ambiguous perspective of Winkiel, a corrupt journalist who is hired by the secret police to launch a smear campaign against Tomczyk, a leader of the Solidarity movement. Boldly mixing fact and fiction, with appearances by Lech Walesa and other political leaders, Man of Iron is a remarkably vivid[…]
This audacious coming-of-age drama follows a brilliant young physicist in his search for truth. He thinks science will provide the answers, but ultimately learns far more about himself through experiencing love, betrayal, loss, and facing his own mortality. Acclaimed for its kaleidoscopic visual style, The Illumination won numerous awards that heralded filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi as a major talent.
Wojciech J. Has
The Hourglass Sanatorium mingles allegory and metaphor to produce a stunning head-trip of a movie. Joseph (Jan Nowicki) is visiting his father in a strange, decrepit sanatorium. This bewildering purgatory is replete with an invisible bureaucracy, copious skulls, cobwebs, semi-sentient clockwork mannequins, and women in various states of undress. —The Cinefamily (cinefamily.org)
One of Poland’s most important novelists, Tadeusz Konwicki was also a director and screenwriter. Jump is a tantalizing existential mystery that hops nimbly between allegory and black comedy. It begins with the hero (Zbigniew Cybulski) jumping off a moving train and making his way to a small town where he lived during the war. Or did he? Riffing on his Ashes and Diamonds persona, Cybulski delivers a dazzlingly protean performance. Is his character an imposter, a fugitive, a prophet, an[…]
An ironic and absurd comedy, Camouflage transports audiences to a university summer school camp. The shallowness and cynicism of the academic milieu becomes apparent though the relationship between a young linguistics professor, Jaroslaw, and his diabolical senior colleague, Jakub. “All people are conformists just like you and I,” exclaims the latter, protesting against the liberal teaching approach of Jarslaw. Krzysztof Zanussi presents the deeply troubling premise of academic conformity with witty humor mocking the status quo. Not intended as a[…]
Ashes and Diamonds is set on the last day of World War II and the first day of peace. Seen through the eyes of Maciek (Zbigniew Cybulski), a young Polish resistance soldier, the old is rapidly mixing with the new. In a few hours dawn will bring a new communist regime to Poland. This is not the independence for which the idealistic young man and his brothers in arms have been fighting and dying. Should Maciek continue his combat when[…]
The arbitrary nature of fate, one of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s favorite themes, drives three separate stories of a man’s life. Medical student Witek (Boguslaw Linda, Poland’s top male star) is mysteriously energized by his father’s cryptic dying words. Each episode begins with Witek subsequently running for a train to Warsaw, which he either 1) catches; 2) misses because he’s stopped by a security guard; or 3) misses but meets a girl, as different possible destinies play out. —Gene Siskel Film Center[…]
On a somber March day, the paths of three men cross: The cabbie Marian cleans his car, the lawyer Piotr celebrates passing his bar exam while in the same café, and 20-year-old Jacek prepares his murder weapon. The film is a psychological and ethical study of murder. A sensation at the Cannes Film Festival and recipient of numerous awards, A Short Film About Killing opened the door to an international career for director Krzysztof Kieślowski (The Decalogue; Blue; White; Red).[…]
Wojciech J. Has
The Saragossa Manuscript, a brilliant adaptation of one of the greatest works of world literature, is a favorite film of iconoclasts as diverse as Luis Buñuel and Jerry Garcia. It's a travel story about the supernatural and mystical, set in 1739. Alphonse van Worden crosses the wild range of the Sierra Morena, a land said to be inhabited only by demons with invisible hands that push travelers into chasms. Although van Worden refuses to listen to those tales, his journey will be a sequence of[…]