Certain incidents you just don’t see coming, and they make our everyday anxieties and worries look trivial, indeed. The news of the death of the director Marcin Wrona at Gdynia, occurring on the Saturday morning of the closing gala of the Festival’s 40th anniversary, shocked and deeply saddened everyone in attendance and, of course, in the wider Polish film community and beyond. Relaying the awful news to a critic friend at TIFF, I learned that he had, just days before, met and interviewed Wrona in Toronto, where the director had presented his new film, Demon, before bringing it to Gdynia, where the movie received further acclaim and was judged by some to be the best film of the Festival.
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It’s been five years already since the release of Jerzy Skolimowski’s excellent Essential Killing (2010), the director’s controversial take on “rendition” which set Vincent Gallo’s Taliban fighter on the run and struggling for survival in the wintry wastes of rural Poland. If we’re sure of anything by now it’s that the only thing one can expect from a Skolimowski movie is the unexpected: there’s no easy-to-identify through-line that would connect the work of this veteran director (also a boxer, poet and painter) over his 50 year career. What Skolimowski does possess, though, is an uncanny ability to take the pulse and measure of the contemporary world in a way that’s as idiosyncratic as it is insightful.
Poland’s potential for those seeking a new life is explored in New World (Nowy świat) a portmanteau film comprised of three separate stories. In the first, “Żanna”, directed by Elżbieta Benkowska, the protagonist is a Belurusian woman (Olga Kavalay-Aksenova), who has moved to Warsaw with her daughter, leaving behind her husband, a musician who has been imprisoned by the authorities. Żanna is embarking on a new relationship when news from her homeland radically disrupts her plans.
New Urbanism isn’t a fresh musical genre emanating from ‘urban pioneer’ hipster raves, but rather, it’s a way of arranging our physical environment to preserve space, resources, and ultimately, time. As with so many “new” concepts, it’s actually a return to methods that worked splendidly before the rise of Mr. Ford’s Tin Lizzie.
Part of Artistic Director Michał Oleszczyk’s fresh vision for Gdynia Film Festival last year was the inauguration of a new strand entitled, appropriately enough, “Visions Apart” (“Inne Spojrzenie”). This is a sidebar to the Main Competition that serves as a showcase for more experimental, eccentric, hard-to-classify Polish films.
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