Polish Film Festival in America | Festival | Chicago Reader

Polish Film Festival in America 

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The 14th annual Polish Film Festival in America, produced by the Society for Arts, continues Friday, November 8, through Saturday, November 30. Screenings are at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence (tickets $9) and the Society for Arts, 1112 N. Milwaukee (tickets $7). Passes, available for $40 (five screenings) and $80 (twelve screenings), are good for all programs except the 3:00 screening Sunday, November 10; for more information call 773-486-9612. The schedule for November 8 through 14 follows; a complete schedule through November 30 is available on-line at www.chicagoreader.com. Programs marked with an * are highly recommended.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8

Like Father Like Son and Pas de Deux

Two short dramatic films. In Ryszard Bugajski's unsubtitled Like Father Like Son (2001, 60 min.) a rock singer hopes to reconcile with his terminally ill father. In Kinga Lewinska's Pas de Deux (2001, 35 min.) a veterinarian who's cheating on his wife has trouble with his new apprentice. (Copernicus Center, 7:00)

The Star

Sylwester Latkowski directed this 90-minute TV documentary about Polish pop star Michal Wisniewski, showing without subtitles. (Copernicus Center, 9:00)

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9

The Smile in the Eye

Piotr Kuzinski, a Polish-trained documentarian based in Norway, uses the drug-related death of a teenage girl as the focal point for this impressionist digital video about rebellious youth in Oslo. The locale could be any industrial city where raves are common and ecstasy plentiful, and the half-dozen drug-addicted girls he interviews fit a familiar profile, with dysfunctional working-class families and boyfriends who range from possessive to abusive. Kuzinski also speaks to the dead girl's young mother, whose anguish and guilt are touching, yet as he cuts back and forth between the girls' boring lives and the hedonistic, drug-drenched parties, there's little doubt why they find the rave culture alluring. In Norwegian with subtitles. 80 min. (TS) (Copernicus Center, 5:00)

An Angel in Krakow

The sound on the preview tape was so defective that I gave up watching, but I caught enough of the striking visuals and wacky humor (both somewhat Felliniesque) to regret the loss. The goofy plot concerns an angel named Giordano (Krzysztof Globisz) who loves rock so much and spends so much time in purgatory with singers like Elvis that he gets banished to earth with instructions to perform one kind deed per day. In Krakow, where he remains in phone contact with the folks upstairs, he meets a single mother and street sausage vendor (Ewa Kaim). Artur Wiecek "Baron" directed and cowrote this feature, in Polish with subtitles. 89 min. (JR) (Copernicus Center, 7:00)

The Nudes

This lame attempt at absurdist comedy, set in the office of a Polish bureaucrat, turns on the conceit that clothing hasn't been invented (although the personal computer has), so everyone works in the nude. The female staffers gossip and banter with one another, interrupted now and then by their portly and irritable boss and various other men and boys, and the dialogue is so inane that I found myself distracted by the way director Witold Swietnicki manages to shoot the characters' sagging breasts and drooping genitalia with some degree of taste. This 2001 video tries to rationalize its foolishness with an epigram from Genesis about Adam and Eve's lack of shame, but its problem is lack of wit. In Polish with subtitles. 75 min. (TS) (Copernicus Center, 9:00)

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10

One Hundred Minutes of Holidays

A movie actress and her daughter, heading to Italy for a long-awaited holiday, are stranded at a hut in the countryside but still must deal with a nosy TV reporter. Andrzej Maleszka directed this 2000 feature. 90 min. (Copernicus Center, 11:00 am)

* The Charm of La Boheme

The festival's tribute to Jan Kiepura, a tenor with the Warsaw State Opera who enjoyed some success in European movie musicals, continues with this 1937 German feature, showing without subtitles, about a company staging the Puccini opera. Geza von Bolvary directed; with Martha Eggerth (who later married Kiepura).

108 min. (Copernicus Center, 1:00)

Chopin: Desire for Love

Bankrolled in part by Polish television and PKO Bank Polski, this high-toned biopic labors to present Frederic Chopin as a national hero, even though he abandoned his homeland at age 20 and never returned, except in his mazurkas and polonaises. Writer-director Jerzy Antczak dutifully begins with young Frederic (Piotr Adamczyk) fleeing Russian-occupied Warsaw for the salons of Paris, but the real story begins when he's wooed and won by the mannish George Sand, whose many affairs have made her an object of scandal. Played with intelligence and passion by Danuta Stenka, the strong-willed novelist struggles to balance the needs of her frail and temperamental lover against those of her high-spirited daughter, who worships Chopin for his genius, and her oedipally challenged son, who hates him for it. Unfortunately the recipient of all this emotion comes off as little more than a high-strung pretty boy, a portrait that's continually belied by the complex sonorities of the works on the sound track. 123 min. (JJ) Antczak and actress Jadwiga Baranska will attend the screening. (Copernicus Center, 3:00)

* Last Resort

A hopeless romantic meets a hapless realist in this gritty, elegant drama brimming with seemingly spontaneous close-ups. Suspected of attempting to immigrate to the UK illegally, a Moscow woman and her ten-year-old son are detained at the airport. When her English fiance, who's supposed to pick them up, doesn't answer her phone calls, she decides to petition for refugee status. She and the boy are sent to an abandoned resort on the coast of England, where they reluctantly become part of a long-term transitional community. Desperate for money, she considers unappealing options, including working for a cybersex outlet--the "exploitation" scenes are brilliantly nongratuitous. Meanwhile, an arcade manager courts her by befriending her son. Written by Rowan Joffe and director Pawel Pawlikowski; with Dina Korzun, Artiom Strelnikov, and Paddy Considine. 73 min. (LA) Pawlikowski will attend the screening. (Copernicus Center, 5:45)

* Where Eskimos Live

The moral wasteland of the Balkans war supplies the backdrop for this gripping story about a man and a boy who grow to love each other, if only to escape the hatred boiling around them. A shady character posing as a UNICEF official (Bob Hoskins) arrives in the Bosnian countryside in 1995, trying to recruit an orphan he'll smuggle out of the country with a fake passport. The nine-year-old who takes him up on his offer (Sergiusz Zymelka) has been running wild with a gang of kids, scavenging for food and planting land mines against the Serb forces. The film is rife with images of polluted innocence--a child prostitute in heavy makeup staring at Hoskins through a wire fence, the boy serenely leafing through a comic book as he sits by a pile of corpses--and while the warmth between the two characters offers some sense of redemption, it's mitigated by the fact that the kid's last mine blew apart a girl no older than he is. Tomasz Wiszniewski directed a script he wrote with Robert Brutter. 93 min. (JJ) (Copernicus Center, 7:45)

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 11

* Works by Pawel Pawlikowski

Pawel Pawlikowski (Last Resort), who apparently specializes in Russian subjects, is clearly a filmmaker to watch, and he'll appear at the festival to discuss these four English TV documentaries. From Moscow to Pietushki (1990, 45 min.), a portrait of writer Venedikt Yerofeyev, samples his work (especially the eponymous novel) in voice-over by Bernard Hill and shows how and why Yerefeyev became the patron saint of Russian alcoholics during the end of the Khrushchev era. A survivor of throat cancer, Yerefeyev needs mechanical assistance to speak, but his dry gallows humor survives intact. The hilarious Dostoevsky's Travels (1991, 45 min.) trails the novelist's great-grandson Dmitri, a tram driver from Saint Petersburg, as he travels around Germany hoping to find a Mercedes he can afford. He can't speak or understand much German, and the people he encounters, though mostly friendly, seem as clueless about his ancestor as he is. (Explains one speaker at a meeting of the Dostoyevsky Society, "Most people here are only familiar with Dostoyevsky through the film Anna Karenina.") Tripping With Zhirinovsky (1995, 40 min.) follows Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the self-absorbed leader of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party, as he flies to New York trumpeting his xenophobic slogans and positions; I haven't seen Serbian Epics (1992, 50 min.), about Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, but I assume it chronicles the same sort of buffoonery. (JR) All the films are subtitled. 180 min. (Society for Arts, 7:00)

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12

Comedie Polonaise and A Man Called Nikifor

A pair of documentaries about Polish artists. Jakub Skoczen's Comedie Polonaise (31 min.) profiles actor Andrzej Seweryn, who divides his time--and his loyalties--between Poland and France, where he performs with the title theater. Grzegorz Siedlecki's A Man Called Nikifor (2001, 53 min.) tells the story of ethnic painter Epifaniusz Drowniak. (Society for Arts, 7:00)

Soccer Evening

This sold-out program (which repeats on Saturday, November 30) features three soccer documentaries: Tomasz Smokowski's Korea 2002 in a Frame (58 min.) follows the Polish team to the World Cup in Korea and Japan. Janusz Zaorski's White-Red-Black: Olisadebe (25 min.) profiles Emmanuel Olisadebe, the Nigerian phenomenon whose instantaneous Polish citizenship was a source of controversy. And Mikolaj Malinowski's unsubtitled Black Eagles (25 min.) examines the integration of African players into Polish teams. (Society for Arts, 9:00)

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 13

My Movie and Extras

Two documentaries about filmmaking: Maciej Pisarek's My Movie (2001, 30 min.), which follows the making of Wojciech Marczewski's Weiser, and Pawel Sala's Extras (2001, 52 min.), in which Jewish extras on the set of Roman Polanski's The Pianist recount their Holocaust experiences. (Society for Arts, 7:00)

What the Dust Hides

Directed by Agnieszka Kluk-Kochanski, this unsubtitled documentary (51 min.) profiles two Poles, one of whom miraculously survived the destruction of the World Trade Center while the other took part in the cleanup at Ground Zero. Also on the program, Malgorzata Imielska's documentary Love in the Time of Extermination (2001, 45 min.). (Society for Arts, 9:00)

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 14

Short documentaries

Three unsubtitled documentaries. 71 min. (Society for Arts, 7:00)

The World According to Piotr D. and Children of Revolution

Jolanta Dylewska's The World According to Piotr D. (27 min.) profiles animator Piotr Dumala. Maria Zmarz-Koczanowicz's Children of Revolution (56 min.), showing without subtitles, is about dissidents in eastern Europe. Producer Jerzy Kapuscinski will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 9:00)

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Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
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