Beautifully short-haired in her role as the spiritualist/therapist in Body/Ciało, Maja Ostaszewska sports rather unflattering permed and dyed blonde tresses in Panie Dulskie. That unfortunate coiffure is just about the only discordant element in Filip Bajon’s film, however. Well, that and the unappealing, inappropriate English title that the movie’s been saddled with (Damaged). I guess that something like “The Dulska Clan” or “Dulskie Women” would be a fair translation of the original title.
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Already honoured at Berlin, where it won the Silver Bear for best direction, Małgorzata Szumowska’s Body/Ciało screens at Gdynia following its domestic theatrical release earlier this year, confirming its status as one of the most significant Polish productions of 2015.
An uncanny blend of police procedural, deadpan black comedy and supernatural enquiry, the movie is an appropriately haunting experience, and the most accomplished and sustained feature that Szumowska has delivered to date.
It was a season so front loaded that, by August, audiences had already forgotten it was supposed to be a Summer of popcorn fun. Things really did fade fast after Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World promised a billion-dollar payoff at the box office. Of course, both film did breakthrough to that new blockbuster barrier, but did so not with superior filmmaking and entertainment value, but with a renewed focus on the foreign markets. Instead of providing outstanding creativity, Hollywood has just perfected the art of selling eye candy to the world.
This doesn’t mean that there weren’t great films this summer. It just means that the mediocrity outshined the few masterworks. It was the same with the worst. Something like The Gallows should definitely be present here, but a choice like that (lame found footage horror film) would be like celebrating one of those fish that we always seem to be hunting in barrels. Instead, the 11 films below (an honorary mention and choice of five for both categories) were a true test of filmmaking tolerances. Both pro and con, they all wanted to be part of your May to August fun. Some were. Most weren’t.
The 12 months since last year’s memorable Gdynia Film Festival have been hugely successful ones for Polish cinema, especially on the international stage. The awarding of the 2014 Best Foreign Language Film BAFTA and Oscars to Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida (the latter a win predicted here last year), plus documentary Oscar nominations for Aneta Kopaz’s Joanna and Tomasz Śliwiński’s Our Curse, must count as the most significant events.
In addition, the recent scooping of the Best Direction prize by Andrzej Zuławski for his long-awaited Witold Gombrowicz adaptation, Kosmos at Locarno and the awarding of the Silver Bear to Małgorzata Szumowska for Body/Ciało at Berlin also testify to a renewed interest in Polish cinematography abroad. So, too, does the extended Kinoteka Festival held in London over April and May.
Steve Leftridge: For the 21st installment of our Double Take series, the big randomizer landed on our first Hitchcock film. With The Lady Vanishes, we find the director at the tail end of his run of early British films, just before embarking on his American career, when he would soon be making far more opulent movies and would establish himself as, arguably, the most influential filmmaker of the 21st century.
I want to try to identify some cinematic characteristics in this film that would later become Hitchcockian staples. While we’re at it, I also want to see if we can find any political undertones or evaluate some social codes in the film. But first, I’m going to cut right to the chase: Do you like this movie?
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