Browsing: Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema

Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema is_2-2

Martin Scorsese knows his stuff. He has seen more films than seems humanly possible for such a prolific filmmaker. Innocent Sorcerers is one of his recommendations from Andrzej Wajda’s collection, a romance film which has been beautifully photographed and now restored to show all its detailed creative camerawork. You can see that this is a stepping stone to the Before… trilogy by Richard Linklater and many other simple, character-driven romance pieces. Wajda is aided by the screenplay written by Jerzy Andrzejewski and Jerzy Skolimowski which has created two intriguing, dynamic characters that blend but also clash in scenes that are bleeding sexual tension.

Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema matka joanna

Often films delve into religion but it feels like most delve into its salvation, its hope, its faith and its goodness. Mother Joan of the Angels is much more complicated than that. It may help promote the selfless sacrifice that religion strives for but it certainly doesn’t entirely condone religion either. Nor does it promote atheism either. The villagers who are outside of the church are tempters who are there to stir the pot, laugh at their rules and seem like heretics. The film seems to want a discussion with Christianity especially but it does dance around the topics of living a careless life too. Satan and bad impulses are equally destructive temptations.

Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema hour-glass sanatorium_1-1

Wojciech Has’ screen adaptation of Polish Jewish writer Bruno Schulz’ 1930s stories begins with a fluid opening shot that presents a frame within a frame and efficiently establishes its interlocking themes of time, mortality, consciousness, and narrative. The camera pans across a winter-lit sky and then several trees empty of branches but covered with patches of snow. As it continues to focus on the breadth of the trees, the camera lowers, as if to bring the spectator’s eye level to the ground. But as the camera pans down, the sky and trees recede to the background and the film frame reveals a window frame from inside a train. With unassuming economy, Has goes from exterior to interior, lightness to darkness, and the actual to the imaginary. This train is, in fact, headed towards the titular sanatorium and contains the main protagonist Joseph (Jan Nowicki), whose journey in the film is less a physical one than one within the castle of his mind revolving around his experiences, memories, and dreams.

Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema 1-F-1974-171-800x800

Something kept nagging at me when I was watching Andrzej Wajda’s The Wedding. It wasn’t anything bad, mind you. There was something ticking in the back of my head. The way Wajda had interpreted Stanislaw Wyspianski’s play on screen had me scratching my head. The play itself is an astounding piece of work . In the play, Wyspianski takes his attendance of a poet friend’s wedding and makes them a boiler pot for political and ideological dialogues. In watching it, I remembered one of my favourite films in Italian cinema, And The Ship Sails On (1983) by Federico Fellini.

Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema 2190

There’s something mysterious, somewhat regal, and distancing about trains. On one level, a train is simply a form of mass transportation of the sort we see a fair amount of these days. But trains were the first (never underestimate being the first), and they still capture our collective desire for exploration, for new horizons, for new beginnings. A train is a way out of the past toward a future that almost has to be brighter. There’s a reason we have the expression “a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Trains also create an odd sort of distanced intimacy. People are cramped together physically, but often they are strangers otherwise. They share this small space, but little else about their lives or experiences. Everyone on a train is a mystery that you in some ways understand more intimately than most others. This mystery, and the twin emotions of dread and possibility that come with it, forms the center of Night Train, director Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s Hitchcock homage.

Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema black cross_1-1

There’s something irresistible about a good historical epic. Perhaps it’s the opportunity to major on spectacle that allows for a uniquely cinematic experience. With a vast number of moving parts, Aleksander Ford’s 1960 picture is certainly an experience. Epic in scope, scale and running time, unashamedly one-sided and tremendous fun at heart, it’s not hard to see why it became such a massive hit in Poland and the wider Soviet Union.

Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema blind_chance_1987_2

If we’re to take Camera Buff as Krzysztof Kieslowski’s masterpiece, in the traditional sense—and we should; its earnest self-interrogation renders it as much of an artistic raison d’être as Andrei Rublev—then the opening movement of Blind Chance is the extraordinary effort of a master at work. His first theatrical feature shot in the wake of that film, albeit one delayed some six years due to censorship, this tremendous tripartite tale—tracing the life of the young student Witek across three alternate timelines in succession—uses an aesthetic and editorial approach in its founding moments to artfully establish a bedrock of political and public chaos to make maddeningly necessary the alternate existences he proceeds to explore. It’s not only for its most famous direct descendant that it might well be named Run Poland Run.

1 2 3