Once again, twenty-five years after the collapse of socialism, a new cinema rebellion in opposition to Hollywood conventions is taking place in Poland. But this time, the instigators of the movement are not professional filmmakers but rather those working in the realm of the plastic arts. Fine artists of many different stripes are choosing to express themselves through the medium of film and the moving image. Working outside their fields of expertise, they are creating an art movement in the domain of cinema. This movement is at once utterly new, and yet also historically linked to earlier transformations within Polish culture. In concert with his article “Polish Cinema Art: The Search for Content,” published in the most recent issue of the Millennium Film Journal (MFJ No. 66), Andrzej Jachimczyk has curated this unique film program, which opens with Tadeusz Konwicki’s THE LAST DAY OF THE SUMMER (1957), a little-known film even in Poland, but pivotal as a foundation of the phenomenon traced by this program. Today, perhaps unconsciously influenced by Konwicki’s film, Polish artists including Piotr Uklański, Zbigniew Libera, Wilhelm and Anka Sasnal, and Łukasz Ronduda, are crafting films intended for cinemas, but devoted to exploring something more than just entertainment. Their themes and forms of visual expression are deeply embedded in an unceasing quest for freshness of both form and content, to an extent that seems closer to the approach of painters, sculptors, performers, video artists, and experimental filmmakers than to other commercial filmmakers. Through feature-length films of Cine-Art – as they like to call this movement – Polish artists are discovering and appropriating narrative cinema as a new medium of limitless possibilities in their artistic pursuits.
“ Polish Cinema Art: The Search for Content” (Millennium Film Journal No. 66)
ALL FILMS ARE IN POLISH WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES
Tadeusz Konwicki THE LAST DAY OF THE SUMMER / OSTATNI DZIEŃ LATA (1957, 66 min, 35mm, b&w.)
In Polish with English subtitles. With Irena Laskowska and Jan Machulski.
The winner of the Grand Prix at the Venice Film Festival in 1958 in the category of experimental films, this first feature by Tadeusz Konwicki – who was previously not a film director but a novelist – shocked viewers with its truly unconventional style of visual narration and partially improvised dialogue. Made with a shoestring budget and a crew of only five, the film was photographed by Jan Laskowski, one of the great Polish cinematographers, without any artificial lighting or sets. It is a story of an encounter – on a beach on the Baltic sea – between two strangers, a woman and a man, who are struggling to find meaning in their war-shattered lives. The film’s form and narrative were so far ahead of their time that there was no response to it, and its minimalistic style was not taken up again until almost sixty years later, with Wilhelm and Anka Sasnal’s IT LOOKS PRETTY FROM A DISTANCE (2011).
Fri, Feb 9 at 7:30.
Wilhelm & Anka Sasnal IT LOOKS PRETTY FROM A DISTANCE / Z DALEKA WIDOK JEST PIȨKNY (2011, 77 min.)
With Marcin Czarnik, Piotr Nowak, Elżbieta Okupska, and Jerzy Lapiński.
This film was shot by Wilhelm Sasnal in Super-16mm then blown up to 35mm. It is a story of a young man who leaves his village, whereupon his neighbors kill his dog, plunder his house, and eventually burn it to the ground. The simple-minded primitive greed and barbarity of the villagers awakens the memory of violence by the Poles towards the Jews during the German occupation of Poland. The stunning beauty of the film’s images, juxtaposed with the ruthless, primitive force and foulness of the villagers’ existence, exposes the savagery of human nature.
Sat, Feb 10 at 6:30.
Zbigniew Libera . WALSER (2015, 78 min, digital.) With Gustaw Klyszcz, Krzysztof Stroiński, and Joanna Wiktorczyk.
Work on the film began in 2011 when Libera won the Film Prize contest sponsored by the Polish Film Institute, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and Wajda School, for a feature-length film project entitled AN AFTERNOON AT THE OZONE BAR. While in production the working title was changed to WALSER. It tells the story of Andrzej Walser, a railroad clerk who finds himself lost in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by a primitive tribe of eternally-young proto-hippies. As a first-time film director and writer, Libera was advised during pre-production by film legend Andrzej Wajda, who worked closely with the artist to help realize his ideas. Gorgeously photographed by Adam Sikora, the film incorporates an invented language and musical instruments.
Sat, Feb 10 at 8:30.
Łukasz Ronduda & Maciej Sobieszczański PERFORMER (2015, 62 min, digital.) With Oskar Dawicki, Andrzej Chyra, Agata Buzek, Jakub Gierszał, and Zbigniew Warpachowski.
Made in collaboration with Maciej Sobieszczański, PERFORMER was Ronduda’s directorial debut. A curator of Polish experimental film at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Ronduda has created collaborative projects with many Polish artists. PERFORMER is a story about the life and work of one of the most important contemporary Polish artists, Oskar Dawicki, who plays himself. It features documentation of Dawicki’s work, embedded in a story that depicts his life and art, and culminates in his (fictional) death.
Sun, Feb 11 at 6:45.
Wilhelm & Anka Sasnal THE SUN, THE SUN BLINDED ME / SŁOŃCE, TO SŁOŃCE MNIE OŚLEPIŁO (2016, 74 min, digital.) With Rafał Mackowiak, Piotr Grabowski, and Joanna Drozda.
This film was inspired by THE STRANGER by Albert Camus, which focuses on an alienated man who meets a dark skinned stranger on the beach and kills him. Though written in 1942, Camus’s story is relevant today, given the waves of refugees and migrants from Africa and the Middle East that are arriving at the borders of Europe. The hostility with which the Polish government and the majority of Polish society has greeted these migrants is almost incomprehensible given the experiences of WWII and its aftermath, when millions of Poles were themselves displaced. The film is stunningly shot in tones reminiscent of Wilhelm Sasnal’s paintings, and its minimalistic images underscore the tragic banality of hate.
Sun, Feb 11, 8:30.
U.S. PREMIERE! Łukasz Ronduda A HEART OF LOVE / SERCE MIŁOŚCI (2017, 78 min, digital.) Polish. With Magdalena Cielecka, Jacek Poniedziałek, and Justyna Wasilewska.
Ronduda’s second feature, and his first as a solo filmmaker, is a complex love story between two real life artists, Zuzanna Bartoszek, a poet, and Wojciech Bąkowski, a musician in contemporary Warsaw, who continuously reinvent their relationship, work, and everyday life as one endless performance – a work of art. As in his first film, Ronduda attempts to merge the art world and the film world, resulting in a new form of noncommercial, creative cinema.
Monday Feb 12 at 7:30.
Thanks to Andrzej Jachimczyk and Grahame Weinbren, as well as to the Polish Cultural Institute New York, Polish National Film Archive – Audiovisual Institute Warsaw, Agata Szymańska of Balapolis, Joe Yanick of Visit Films, Kuba Kosma of Takfilm Studio, Ola Maslik of Second Illusion. This program is part of 50 X 50, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Millennium Film Workshop.