Pokolenie [1955)

You think you’ve lost because you don’t know the truth.

Right now.

This very second.

But it takes a lifetime to mull and savor.

Each bit of propaganda proffered.

Yes.

I am a coward.

But honest.

Just scared.  Scared at the rustle of leaves.  Worthless in battle.

When pursued by dumb, fearless slabs of meat.

The brave wear white.

Purely afraid.

We have no real dream to comb out.

And you say we’re not in a real war.

But we are playing chess with Lucifer, age-old.

And so now I apologize to Bobby Fischer.

If you can get to that.

Because he started multiple games.  At random.  In progress.

Textbook tells one way.  And wake up early works well.

But weird candlelight attic window can’t be replicated.

The most valuable aberration.

For now I have created language.

And I no longer need you.

Your wars have ceased in importance.

Because I can implode your machines.  Which you rely on so heavily.

Andrzej Wajda a third time.

Tadeusz Łomnicki was a Daniel Craig orphan here.

And you think left better off a poem.

Why shoehorn Cahiers?

We can all do it for the sake of a Urszula Modrzyńska.

Curls to comb out like Marx’s beard.

And our Jewish comrades.

It’s no joke.

Keep the beat, Tadeusz Janczar.  Neu!  Neu!  Neu!

Like Klaus Dinger.  Single-minded.  Double-footed.  Almost an arm to spare.

You will see Roman Polanski act.

And scream.

Like Beavis.

Ah!  Ah!  Ah!

No Butt-Head doth stem the bathos.

Dodoism, now and forever!!!!!!

 

-PD

Kanał [1956)

I feel like this film.

Every day.

But it might as well be today.

Trudging through excrement.

There is no kindly way to put it.

War.

I do not know.

Resistance.

I do.

Give me that wedding ring.

No thing of value will perish with you.

It is hard to keep your thoughts clear in a sewer.

Surely lighting a match is unadvisable.

But we only know the Merry Christmas war.

Shitter’s full.

The miserables.

Henry Miller may have imagined it too late.

As Robert Schumann said, you must only think of a melody and write it down.

Or remember a melody that no one else has remembered.

I don’t know.

It’s hard to think down here.

With these fumes.

Starved for oxygen.

But we have a real story.

Teresa Iżewska is all but forgotten in the English-speaking world.

What a shame.

Because she conjures a dying palliative.

Don’t open your eyes, Saul.

Let me describe it to you.

There is a Bechstein piano with the left front leg missing.

Kissing the ground.

And the composer goes to work.

The focal point of our story.

Władysław Sheybal or Vladek Sheybal.

He brings the movie to life along with director Andrzej Wajda.

Yes, I fell in love with Polish films because of Popiół i diament.

And now we come to Kanał.

The sewer.  Sewers.  Dante.  Hell.

“Piano music should only be written for the Bechstein.”  –Claude Debussy

But did he say it in English?

Surely not Polish.

And so we celebrate our heroes now in our resistance.

Andreas von Bülow, for instance.

And we turn our ear to the acoustics of this torture chamber.

Thanks to Hans von Bülow.

You probably know Sheybal (if at all) as Kronsteen of From Russia with Love.

Yes, the early Bond films had credibility.  Class.

Goldfinger employed Gert Fröbe (whom I should have mentioned for his small-yet-comedic role in Mr. Arkadin).

And now we still have great actors in the Bond films…Daniel Craig (yes, I believe he’s truly special), Jesper Christensen (an acting god!), Ralph Fiennes (another holy)…even Ben Whishaw when he doesn’t have shite lines.

And who doesn’t love Léa Seydoux?

But to this formidable ensemble was added the raw sewage/faux talent of Christoph Waltz.

Likewise, John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth…these four fell far short of the mark in Spectre that Jerzy Stefan Stawiński set with Kanał.

I mention Spectre because I have been reconsidering my harsh review of it.

But, dear friends, much of my revulsion concerning Spectre remains (even after a second viewing).

On the other hand, a film literally steeped in shit (Kanał) has stood the test of time for 60 years.

ATTN:  James Bond franchise (Eon Productions), Hollywood, et al.

Stop stopping at Hitchcock.

Sam Mendes.

Your rips of The Birds and North by Northwest did not go unnoticed.

But why not delve deeper into film history?

Wanna help bring down the surveillance panopticon?

Gonna have to try a lot harder than that.

The façade won’t crumble with half-assed efforts.

Start here, perhaps.

 

-PD

 

 

Elèna et les hommes [1956)

Sometimes we are emptied of our emotions from exhaustion.

We can’t fail at love any more than we have.

Valentine’s Day is but a mockery.

And so why does Miss Lonelyhearts push on?

And Sgt. Pepper?

Some of us have immense reservoirs of confidence.

Some of us have a penchant for risk.

But not I.

If we treat love as an investment (bear with me),

then every risk has its flipside:  the potential for reward.

In love, we weigh the possibilities.

What will she say?  How will he respond?

But our world has degenerated into a soulless masquerade.

Do anything…but never show your true feelings.

If we are circumspect in our psychology, we realize that many times we don’t know our own minds.

I am not a meditating ninja.  I do not balance, poised to act with clarity.

No, I am clumsy.

In love, I am particularly clumsy.

To speak of such things in America…it just isn’t done.

Love is more taboo than sex.

Sex is ubiquitous, but love is vulnerability.

An American can never show vulnerability.

This is the great archetypal travesty of the film Patton.

And perhaps no greater dichotomy could exist than from that film to our film Elèna et les hommes.

It is Jean Renoir again.  It is Ingrid Bergman.  It is Jean Marais.

And to a very surprising extent, it is Juliette Gréco.

It must have been this film to which Godard fell in love.

More interested in Gréco than El Greco at this time.  More interested in Juliette than his schoolwork.

Those dreams which would be realized in Anna Karina.

But things fall apart.

How hard to know the soul of a man or woman.

Ingrid plays the role of a Polish princess.

On Bastille Day with Mel Ferrer there is a Rabelaisian warmth to the festivities.

From one Renoir to another, there are the pinks in the cheeks.  Red wine.  A weak drink.  Compared to Polish vodka.

And then there are the daisies.  A marguerite here and there.  Gounod’s Faust would have such as the leading soprano.

A grand opera in five acts is about what Elèna et les hommes feels like.  There are similarities in tone and mise-en-scène to Max Ophüls’ Lola Montès, but the best comparison is to Renoir’s own The Golden Coach.

What may not be evident (due to the visual disparity between the vibrant, saturated colors of Elèna et les hommes and the black and white of Renoir’s early films) is that our film is very similar to the Renoir classic La Règle du jeu.  Both share traits with the elusive Hollywood genre known as “screwball comedy”.  There is a general ruckus of celebration…a confusion of who loves whom…indeed, about who should love whom…mixed emotions…missed connections…conflicted hearts.

There are the base buffoons who live out our easiest desires.  They just chase.  So what if they lose?  Well, it makes a big difference…from the bathos of Schumacher to the stoogery of Eugène.

But these references aside, it is the others who make us believe.  The hesitating class of Ingrid Bergman and Nora Gregor…these parallel characters.  And the luckless chaps who may or may not prevail in the end…Mel Ferrer and, indeed, Jean Renoir himself as Octave in La Règle du jeu. 

It must have been a revelation for Godard to see this film.  It was the French film industry asserting itself.  And yet, it was the spectacle against which Debord would rail a mere 11 years later.

Even so, Elèna et les hommes is (at the very least) a beautiful echo of the French film tradition which preceded it.  In a sense, it was Jean Renoir retelling that old story of La Règle du jeu one more time.

Life is a strange party in which Saint-Saëns’ Danse macabre is liable to be conjured from the ghostly ivories of a player piano at any moment.

 

-PD

Popiół i diament [1958)

The words don’t come easily.

In the old crypt.

He has to toss her the matches.

His trusty matches.

Twice he has lit the cigarette of Commissar Szczuka.

As for her.  Her.

Ewa Krzyżewska.

Krystyna.  I saw you in a magazyna.  (GZM)

But Zbigniew Cybulski knows the author.

Cyprian Norwid.

All he wanted to do was go to school.

He had done well.  A smart kid.

The assassin poet.  Maciek.

A bit like the gunrunning Rimbaud.

Ashes and diamonds.  Violets in the dustbin.

Adam Pawlikowski couldn’t help but inhale the fleeting perfume of love.

A little love turns an assassin straight.

It is like James Bond.

Daniel Craig.

Skyfall, perhaps.

Simple word association.

And for “assassination”?  “Employment.”

This is Ashes and Diamonds by Andrzej Wajda.

The precursor to Bruno Forestier in Le Petit Soldat.

And in many (many) ways, the precursor to Michel in À Bout de souffle.

So much of Jean-Paul Belmondo seems to come from Zbigniew Cybulski.

It makes sense.

The sunglasses.

Living in the sewers during the uprising in Warsaw.

Godard.  So underground that he wore his sunglasses at night.

Yes, they are a way to hide.

For The Velvet Underground they would become a way to survive the strobe-light insanity of Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

For Lou Reed they would become immortalized as a way to deal with the harsh light of the day (or night) when on heroin.

This was no doubt from Hubert Selby, Jr.  From William S. Burroughs.

Perhaps even Nelson Algren.

But let’s not get too far afield.

This is a “review” of a Polish film called Popiół i diament.

It is an achingly-beautiful film.  There.  I said it.

I don’t begrudge this film.

She is my first love within Polish cinema.

There is something so special about this film.

Little moments.  The flowers dropped in the trash.

The “what-could-have-been”.  The employment by way of death.

The pull and tug of war.  The futility of taking sides.

Wajda was making a bold statement here.

There are no winners in Ashes and Diamonds.

The only winner is the viewer.

The viewer who sees the film-poetry and loses themselves for a moment upon the ash heap…the midden pile…the city dump which is modern life.

For a moment…stumbling across the wasteland…there is a girl…and a little bouquet of violets.

 

-PD

Deutschland im Jahre Null [1948)

The first thing film critics have to get right is the title.

Let me explain a bit.

On my site, I always list a film in its original language (to the best of my ability).

In my opinion, that is the best way of honoring the film.

So far, I have encountered the mild idiosyncrasies of Romanian, Serbo-Croat, Czech, and Polish in addition to the mind-blowing intricacy of Farsi and Japanese.

But with Deutschland im Jahre Null we are seeing a German-language film by an Italian director…sort of.

Italy has a very peculiar tradition concerning voiceovers and direct (or, conversely, indirect) sound.  It is an oddity which caught the attention of Godard in his role as film historian.

I cannot give you as erudite an explanation as my hero Jean-Luc, but suffice it to say that foreign (non-Italian) films in Italy have traditionally been overdubbed into Italian.  So, in other words, no subtitles.

This is distinct from an American viewer watching a Fellini film.  The “American” version (whether on DVD or as a film print in a theater) will be in Italian with subtitles in English.  This goes for almost all foreign-language (non-English) films marketed in the United States.

But getting back to Deutschland im Jahre Null…  It is similar to the Danish director Carl Th. Dreyer directing the French film La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc…with one major difference.  Dreyer’s film was a silent one (the only French being the intertitles).  Rossellini’s Deutschland im Jahre Null is very much in German.  We are hearing German actors speak (exclusively) German dialogue.

What is most interesting is the linguistic lineage of this film.  In English, this film is known as:

Germany, Year Zero

Which is quite similar to Rossellini’s preceding masterpiece (in linguistic parallel):

Rome, Open City

To be fair, let’s consider the Italian name (the real name) of Rome, Open CityRoma città aperta.  Fine.  That is the way I recognize the film.  The true name is (in my mind) Roma città aperta.

But with Deutschland im Jahre Null we come to a very strange case.  If we do not recognize the primacy of its English title (Germany, Year Zero), and I do not, then we are directed by that great arbiter of cultural legitimacy Wikipedia to consider our options exhausted by being cognizant of the Italian title (Germania anno zero).

What is the message of this omission by English Wikipedia?  I believe the message is that Germany was (and continues to be) a null.  A zero.  A conquered culture.

We see a similar thing in the kowtowing stereotype of conquered Japan.  And though Japan might be experiencing some moderate-to-light financial troubles in recent years, Germany is by all accounts the economic powerhouse of continental Europe.  Why do I bring economics into the discussion?  Because wealthy nations are able to assert themselves.

But let us step back a bit.  Wikipedia does have some tasty morsels of information concerning this film.  If the source can be trusted, this 1948 film was not shown in Germany (the country from whence the language of the film takes its name) until 1952.  After its single screening in München (Munich), it was not heard from again within those borders until it ran on German television in 1978. 

Wow…26 years.  Either this film was grossly misunderstood, or it was understood all too well.  From my reading, this is a very pro-German document.

Rossellini was not George Stevens making concentration camp propaganda.  Roberto was making art.  The sign of art is the admission of possibilities.  Art seduces us because it is subtle.  Art does not proclaim in blanket statements.  Art does not underestimate the intelligence of the viewer.

Roberto Rossellini did something with his “war films trilogy” which seems to have been unprecedented.  The desire of neorealism was to film fiction as if it were documentary.  This fiction would be, likewise, based on reality.

But why is it, then, that we have very different views of Roberto Rossellini and Robert Flaherty?

I will tell you my guess.  Flaherty’s sin was in the framing of his presentation.  To wit, he presented his staged documentaries (take the oil industry propaganda piece Louisiana Story for instance) as if they were naturally-occurring, spontaneous documentaries. The sin, then, was his duplicitous relationship with his subjects.  He actively made his human subjects into actors.

Rossellini takes a different tack.  There is no pretense that Deutschland im Jahre Null is an ACTUAL documentary.  It merely has the feel of that medium.  Likewise, Rossellini’s use of nonprofessional actors was likely more of a precursor to Robert Bresson than a twist on Flaherty’s bizarre formula (which predated Roberto in both Nanook of the North [1922] and Man of Aran [1934]).  No, Rossellini had created something new. 

It’s not so much the films of Flaherty to which I object as it is the idea of them.  At least one of his concoctions (perhaps thanks to director F.W. Murnau) is very fine indeed:  Tabu [1931].  Flaherty and Murnau co-wrote this ostensible documentary.  Indeed, with Flaherty we come into contact with inchoate, obscure film genres such as docudrama, docufiction, fictional documentary (ethnofiction), etc. etc. etc.

Most importantly, none of what I have written here has even scratched the surface of Deutschland im Jahre Null.   What ever became of the heartrending main child actor Edmund Moeschke?  I do not know.

One thing is certain to me:  no film before Rossellini’s “war trilogy” (Roma città aperta, Paisà, and Deutschland im Jahre Null) [1945/1946/1948] takes on such politically sensitive and important topics in such a raw way.  The closest would be the socialism of Eisenstein or the humanism of Chaplin. 

It is, therefore, no wonder at all that Rossellini spawned a million “new waves” the world over.

 

-PD

 

Nóż w wodzie [1962)

I wanted to not like this film.

For some reason.

Because it wasn’t my first love.

That would be Popiół i diament.

But Knife in the Water is as good a place as any to start.

Poland.

Quite frankly, this film blew my socks off.

Nóż w wodzie is a strange little masterpiece.

Truly.

On this day when Paris burns.

Appropriate.

That we get to a Parisian director named Roman Polański.

Yes, this film is like the day.

Today.

Yesterday.

All along we are afraid that someone is going to kill someone.

We suspect the vagrant.  The migrant.

But we find out that the real asshole is the yachtsman.

That shouldn’t have been hard to guess, but for some it takes a moment.

I first suspected the yachtsman thanks to Thierry Meyssan.

A couple of his books.

9/11:  The Big Lie.  And another called Pentagate.

These were among the first books to take aim at the fraudulent War on Terror by questioning the foundational event which birthed the current pall hovering over humanity.

“…an attack on humanity,” President Obama?  No.  YOU are an affront to humanity.  With your sullied Peace Prize.

Only fitting…considering Alfred Nobel invented dynamite.

Et allors…a Frenchman showed the way.

Meyssan.

The U.S. State Department branded his books as anti-American black propaganda.

In other words, they were claiming that the books stemmed from a foreign government’s attempt at geopolitical destabilization.

And you would know, State Department…because that is your specialty.

And so, as always, in the midst of my more adrift reviews the question arises as to the pertinence of my diatribe to said filmic document under consideration.

Nóż w wodzie is a political statement.  The bourgeois couple out for a day of leisurely sailing as pitted against the nature-boy tramp.

Salt in the wounds vs. salt of the earth.

I will leave it up to the reader to connect certain unspoken dots.

But, frankly, the spectacle I saw on 24-hour-news television tonight screamed false-flag terror to me.

What do I know?

I’m merely a boy with a rucksack and a couple of black radishes.

Far be it from me to discern real from fake.

As Guy Debord said (and I paraphrase), “Reality erupts within the spectacle.”

C’est-à-dire, it is very likely that many innocent people lost their lives tonight in Paris.

Therefore, the equation would be:  real death amidst fake terror.

It is the narrative which is fake.

Playing cui bono pretty quickly gets us from Islamic terrorists (who do not stand to benefit) to Western intelligence agencies (including possibly Israel) who very much stand to gain from tonight’s deadly shenanigans.

It is sad.

We don’t want it to be true.

You didn’t really cheat on me with the wanderer, did you?

And yet, the yachtsman’s wife is mostly innocent.

Sometimes it takes a miracle to realize that our lives suck.  Our life sucks.  We are living a sham.

That is the miracle which the yachtsman’s wife finds in a stolen kiss.

A moment of tenderness.  A reminder of what real life was like.

But Roman Polanski succeeds most of all (with the help of writer Jerzy Skolimowski) in showing us that we’re all guilty as hell.

Yeah.

That’s about right.

I’m no saint.

We’re no saints.

And so false-flag terror mostly annoys us at this point.

Every time an incident “erupts” we’re not sure whether anyone died whatsoever (to begin with).

As I said, things look very grave indeed tonight in Paris.

We mourn those 100 or so young people who died at Le Bataclan…sacrificed on the altar of war profits.

It is truly Satanic (if such things exist).

A very dark ritual which terrorizes the planet.

And so the only hope for the suspect intelligence agencies is to present us with the heads of their masters.

Call them the New World Order.  Call them SPECTRE.

Just call them and notify them that you will no longer be their whipping boys.

No doubt, the majority of intelligence agency employees are good, decent people.

That is why they should put their butts on the line to end this endless War on Terror charade.

Yesterday was all about sufficiently shocking the masses so as to regain control of the inhumane war against Syria from the leveling presence of Russia.

We know the equation.

Putin will never call out 9/11 as false-flag terror because he does the same thing to his people.

Just like Nóż w wodzie.  No one is really innocent here (myself included).  We’re all just trying to show off.  And on the world stage, it is truly a deadly game.

The NWO (let’s call them) seemingly has but one trick in their bag:  false-flag terrorism.  15 years of the same tune.  A one-trick pony.

And how do we know this?  Because of Operation Gladio.  Because of revelations gleaned over the years.

The CIA is tasked with this kind of stuff.  Doesn’t mean they get a whole lot of enjoyment out of it.

No, dear friends…I can’t give you the exact names–the exact chain of command, but someone can.

And maybe they are reading this and on the fence regarding their messy role in destabilizing the world.

But let’s be simple.

I can give you the name Jolanta Umecka.  What a beauty!  With her kitty-cat glasses.  Early-60s.  1950s.  The lagging fashion of the Eastern Bloc.

It’s not much.

I can give you a film review.  I can put myself out on the line as the village idiot.

It is both the least and the most I can do.

I may be mistaken about everything.

Like Thoreau, I will admit when I was in error.  In strong words.  Tomorrow.  Just as strong as those I used today.

Dear friends.  What a pity that these proxy games must go on.

We are above such machinations.

There is great art to be appreciated.

Great art teaches the way.

Great art like Nóż w wodzie.

-PD