THE FILMS OF ANDRZEJ WAJDA
In 2000, at age seventy-four, Andrzej Wajda was presented with an honorary Academy Award for his contribution to cinema; yet the man who has been called the most influential Polish filmmaker of all time, and the father of the Polish Film School, is little known here in the United States. The marrow of Wajda’s life and art was forged by his experiences growing up in Poland during and after World War II. This dark period in his life has sustained fifty-eight years of cinematic inquiry, from his first three features (“THE WAR TRILOGY”), which examine Polish life under Nazi occupation and Soviet domination, to his most recent work, the Polish Oscar submission, Katyn (2007), a deeply personal chronicle of the murder of thousands of Polish prisoners of war, including Wajda’s own father. “The good Lord gave the director two eyes—one to look into the camera, the other to be alert to everything that is going on around him.”—Andrzej Wajda.
Filmmaker Andrzej Wajda
Wajda’s first feature, A GENERATION (Poland, 1955) launched one of the most durable careers in world cinema. Barely out of film school, Wajda demonstrated a remarkable mastery of the medium: he vividly captured the 1942 Warsaw milieu in which he’d fought as a teenager against the Nazis; introduced the legendary Zbigniew Cybulski and another young film student, Roman Polanski; made a startling break with the traditional theatricality of Polish screen acting; and created what would become part one of his classic war trilogy. The film contrasts official reports of wartime heroics with cruel reality, an interesting foreshadowing (though from a very different perspective) of Wajda’s rendition of living with a lie in his latest film, Katyn.
An unforgettably vivid depiction of the last days of the 1944 Warsaw uprising against the German Nazis, KANAL (Poland, 1957) was co-awarded (with Bergman’s The Seventh Seal) a special jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival, establishing Wajda as a major new international film talent. His second film—and the second part of his war trilogy—features a rich mosaic of meticulously combined narratives, following a band of surviving Polish Home Army soldiers that takes to the sewers to avoid capture. Unable to refer to the fact that the Soviet Army was waiting just across the river while the Germans wiped out the non-Communist resistance, Wajda portrayed the insurgents with unaccustomed sympathy. Five years after this riveting excursion into the “underneath” of history, the Polish Communist Party announced that there was no place for films like Wajda’s in Polish cinema. “Sensational filmmaking meets existential masterpiece.”—J. Hoberman, The Village Voice.
A GENERATION plays at The Northwest Film Center Friday, March 6th at 7PM ONLY.
KANAL plays at The Northwest Film Center March 8th at 7PM ONLY.
Don’t miss this rare chance to see the first two films of Wajda’s War Trilogy on the big screen! And for the completists, the last of the trilogy plays next Friday.
DECLARATIONS OF INDEPENDENCE: 1970’S CLASSICS
Now this is my kind of programming! The Northwest Film Center is playing ten great films from one of the finest decades of American cinema, with films by John Cassavetes, Martin Scorsese, Hal Ashby, Sidney Lumet, Bob Fosse, Terrence Malick and many more!!!
A decade most remembered for the advent of the blockbuster, the 1970s also spawned a rich legacy of smaller films that have remained influential for generations of filmmakers. In an era when the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal created enormous distrust of authority, independently minded producers, writers and directors focused inward, examining the personal and social forces at play. Casting off Hollywood’s usual entertainment conventions in favor of gritty and contemplative meditations, these films remain as resonant today as they were three decades ago.
The Declarations of Independence series starts modestly with THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (Peter Bogdanovich, U.S., 1971) starring Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, and Cybill Shepherd, in his breakout film, a masterful depiction of the interwoven lives of the inhabitants of a small Texas town in the 1950s. While telling the story of two best friends struggling to cope with new adulthood. THE LAST PICTURE SHOW simultaneously creates a subtle meditation on themes of loneliness, loss, and isolation while also being a sober elegy to the neighborhood cinema houses. Co-stars Ellen Burstyn and Cloris Leachman, who both earned Oscars for their bravura performances.
THE LAST PICTURE SHOW plays one night only, SATURDAY, March 7th at 7pm!
The series continues with a lesser celebrated film by the director of Harold & Maude, THE LAST DETAIL (Hal Ashby, U.S., 1973). With an unconventional script by Robert Towne (screenwriter for Chinatown), and understated performances by Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid, Ashby’s singular directorial whimsy THE LAST DETAIL is an exemplar of the free-form cinematic aesthetic of the Seventies. Billy “Bad Ass” Budduskey (Nicholson) and Mule Mulhall (Otis Young) are two Navy men given a week to escort a young prisoner (Randy Quaid) from Virginia to a naval penitentiary in Maine. Intending to conclude their business quickly and spend the rest of their time partying, the two men instead become enamored of the young prisoner and decide to include him in their ribald revelry.
THE LAST DETAIL plays one night only, next Thursday, March 12th at 7PM!
Starting Friday at The Clinton Street Theater, the classic Toshiro Mifune samurai film, SAMURAI REBELLION (Masaki Kobayashi, Japan, 1967).
Trailer for SAMURAI REBELLION
Set in 18th-century Japan, during the reign of the Tokugawa Shogunate, SAMURAI REBELLION stars Toshirô Mifune as Isaburo Sasahara, swordsman and official at the court of Lord Matsudaira (Tatsuo Matsumura). Ichi (Yôko Tsukasa), a mistress of the lord, has been banished for striking her master for taking a new mistress. Mifune is tremendous as the proud Isaburo in Kobayashi’s exposure of the innate injustice of Japan’s feudal society. The film’s severe, formal beauty is complemented by Takemitsu’s score, which draws on the colorful sounds of traditional Japanese instruments. SAMURAI REBELLION is one of the best of its genre.
SAMURAI REBELLION starts Friday at The Clinton Street Theater. Tuesday nights are always only FOUR BUCKS! Check website for showtimes.
Laurelhurst is continuing their month of cult programming with REPO MAN (Alex Cox, U.S., 1984) starring Emilio Estevez. I don’t have much to add about this one; either you already love it or you haven’t seen it. Now is your chance to see it on the big screen!
Trailer for REPO MAN
REPO MAN starts Friday at the Laurelhurst Theater and plays nightly at 9:45pm. Tickets are only THREE BUCKS!
Two Special Premieres!
The first is presented by The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) and Film Action Oregon with the west coast premiere of OUR CITY OF DREAMS (Chiara Clemente, U.S.) at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, March 6, 2009 at 7:30pm, followed by a reception with the director and the film’s music composer Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini.
An ode to New York City, OUR CITY OF DREAMS documents the lives and works of five New York-based female artists over the course of two years – from graffiti artist Swoon’s first solo exhibition at Deitch Projects in New York to Ghada Amer’s return to her Egyptian homeland, from Kiki Smith’s traveling retrospective and Marina Abramovic’s weeklong series of performances at the Guggenheim Museum in New York to 80-year-old artist/activist Nancy Spero’s preparations of a new piece for the 2007 Venice Biennale.
For more information, check out the website HERE. Tickets are $12.
The second premiere occurs next week, but you may need to buy tickets now!
March 13th and 14th, Steven Soderbergh will be in attendence for a Q&A for his latest film, CHE, starring Benicio Del Toro as the enigmatic Che Guevara. This is a “roadshow” edition of the film and will not be present with titles or credits. Instead, program notes will be provided. The film is 263 minutes with an intermission and tickets can be purchased in advance BY CLICKING HERE.
Another reason to attend the screening is because Soderbergh shot CHE with the now infamous RED camera, which doesn’t shoot film nor video but rather 4k files to a hard drive (4k resolution is four times greater than the highest high-definition video resolution). There have been a handful of other films which have used the RED camera, but this will demonstrate exactly what this new technology can do. Last winter, I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and saw some of the 4k footage projected from a 4k projector and the image is as silky as new skin. What will be shown at Cinema 21 will be a film print and so there will be nominal film grain in the structure of the print which is not naturally inherent in RED footage. If nothing else, CHE is a film which is part of the RED camera revolution. For the fetishist, Part One of CHE was shot on both Super 16mm and Part Two is RED footage only.
CHE opened in its full four hour duration at Cannes 2008 to very luke warm reviews, so go with the right expectations. Personally, every single Soderbergh film I’ve seen post sex, lies and videotape has bored me to tears. CHE plays at Cinema 21 for one week only, starting this Friday.
HD Trailer for CHE
And lastly…just a reminder that in a partnership with IFC Films and The Criterion Collection, gatekeepers to the Janus Films catalog, the website for theauteurs.com is featuring SIX FREE foreign films which all won Best Foreign Film upon their release.
The films are LA STRADA (Federico Fellini, Italy, 1954), one of my personal favorites CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS (Jiri Menzel, Cz., 1966), BLACK ORPHEUS (Marcel Camus, Brazil, 1959), the hilarious film MON ONCLE (Jacques Tati, France, 1958), THE SHOP ON MAIN STREET (Ján Kadár & Elmar Klos, Cz., 1965) and well…you can see the following this weekend at the Fifth Avenue Cinema so I’m hesitant to mention the last one, THE VIRGIN SPRING.