1960s is my favourite decade in Polish cinema. There are plenty of movies, that I'd have to discuss in this post, as essentials in the 60s history. I decided to present a list of my six favourites, from which all of them play an important role in the history of Polish cinema.
Let me begin with my two absolute favourites in Polish cinema in general, which are "Good Bye, Till Tomorrow" and "Innocent Sorcerers". These two films have one important thing in common. Both movies take up the subject of the youth, people who were born around 1930s and affected by Polish October. After Stalinism there came the end of indoctrination of the youth in political life, as well as indoctrination in Polish cinema. Never before has the private human space been so important. People could finally live their life the way they wanted to. They could have fun and focus on their spare time more than work. Most importantly, they could finally love. Unfortunately, the famous Polish October revealed hooliganism, prostitution and bitterness in the young society. They felt betrayed by their country, politics and everything they used to believe in. Their whole perception of the world has changed and so have their attitude towards life and established rules. They started to behave cynically and pretend, act in front of each other. They weren't able to reveal their real feelings anymore, as they were too afraid to be hurt and disappointed again. The exact kind of behaviour is presented in "Innocent Sorcerers", which I'm going to describe in a second.
The 1960s decade in Polish cinema was considered to be a small stability. The theme of youth was hard to transfer on a screen, as the most common subject to talk about was the past, which is war. Most importantly, the authority didn't want to reveal their defeat in the field of indoctrination. Even before 1960s. some movies were censored because of that, for example "Lost Affections" (1957) were pulled back from the screen after a couple of days, as it's revealed the real, solitary life of the youth. Both movies, "Good Bye, Till Tomorrow" and "Innocent Sorcerers", open a new group of films, that are centred on the theme of intelligent characters, who's just graduated from school. These films present their behaviours, customs, fashion, language, their priorities, art phenomena etc. "Good Bye, Till Tomorrow" is a positive, refreshing and cheerful love story. It's the first one to take up the subject of love, as in the times of Stalinism love was only a friendship, that has started at work and in the times of Polish Film School love was only a short periodic moment, a kind of escape from war. The second type of love, as an escape from war, is well presented in one of Polish masterpieces of cinema from the 50s. "Ashes and Diamonds" by Andrzej Wajda (1958). However, "Innocent Sorcerers" presents love in a completely different way than "Good Bye, Till Tomorrow", in a negative way. It perfectly shows the issue of young people's bitterness, disappointment and cynical posture towards reality that surrounds them.
1. "GOOD BYE, TILL TOMORROW" (1960)
DIRECTED BY JANUSZ MORGENSTERN | WRITTEN BY ZBIGNIEW CYBULSKI, BOGUMIŁ KOBIELA, WILHELM MACH
"Good Bye, Till Tomorrow" is a romance and a Janusz Morgenstern's debut film. It tells a story of a man, Jacek (Zbigniew Cybulski), who falls in love with a French girl, Marguerite (Teresa Tuszyńska).
The director was fascinated with art phenomena on the coast. The art, such as a famous back then Hand Theatre "Bim Bom". In the film there are some beautiful scenes, where the theatre performs. Thanks to the use of it, the movie is very unique and artistic. What's very interesting about it, it's the surrounding of people, who have created the theatre. These people weren't actors or men of letters, but architects and visual artists. According to that fact, the theatre was more concentrated on a visual aspects, such as scenography, image and props, instead of verbal aspects. There were two directors of the theatre, Zbigniew Cybulski and Bogumił Kobiela. Jan Morgenstern, asked them to participate in creating the script for the movie. Although there is one more name mentioned when talking about the script. Wilhelm Mach was a man of letters, which is why they put his name as a writer for the movie. However, the truth is, he had nothing to do with the script, his name was only put there to make the script look better and more convincing for the critics. Bogumił Kobiela wrote only one scene to the film, that wasn't even included in the final version. The whole script was actually written by Zbigniew Cybulski himself. "Good Bye, Till Tomorrow" was filmed in a tri-city area in Poland: Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot. It shown the beauty of Gdańsk, as it's never been seen before. Even though the city was sill destroyed after the 1st World War, the creators of the film managed to choose the best, most beautiful parts to be shawn on the screen.
"Good Bye, Till Tomorrow" is a positive, cheerful and worm movie. It's my number one movie in Polish cinema. First of all, because of a splendid acting of both, Zbigniew Cybulski and extremely charming Teresa Tuszyńska. In terms of cinematography, it's undeniably the most beautiful Polish film I've ever seen and one of the best in general. The use of light, shadows and reflections create a unique atmosphere. It's one of this films that I just couldn't forget after watching it for the first time and also one of those that made me want to become a filmmaker. I highly recommend it to any cinema lover, especially to those who want to explore Polish cinema!
DIRECTED BY ANDRZEJ WAJDA | WRITTEN BY JERZY ANDRZEJEWSKI AND JERZY SKOLIMOWSKI
2. "INNOCENT SORCERERS" (1960)
"Innocent Sorcerers" on the other hand presents love in a negative way. It's a story of a young doctor and jazzman, Bazyli (Tadeusz Łomnicki), who spends only one night with a girl, Pelagia (Krystyna Stypulkowska). They're playing a cynical game with each other.
Although the plot seems to be simple and trivial, the movie is more focused on its inner philosophy. When Andrzej Wajda and Jerzy Andrzejewski were working on a script for the movie, they met Jerzy Skolimowski and asked him about his opinion. Skolimowski didn't like the idea much, as he thought that the youth is presented unrealistically. According to him, young people play jazz and go boxing. Skolimowski knew many relevant things about '56 youth from his own experience and so he had a huge influence in creating the script by including some facts from his personal life. First of all, when he was a teenager he used to box. Second of all, he was a huge fan of Krzysztof Komeda, a Polish composer, who was a jazzman and a doctor at the time.
Surprisingly, in comparison to all the previous Wajda's films, that were mostly on a theme of war and politict, this one turned out to be the most controversial for the critics. It was suspended from publication for a year. The whole problem was the ending, that was considered inappropriate. In the first version Pelagia left the apartment and never came back. The second version showed a close up of Pelagia in her school uniform. When the camera dollied out to the wide shot the audience could see her sitting in the classroom with other students, all dressed the same and looking alike. The purpose of it was to show that even though Pelagia might have seemed unique and one of a kind, she's actually just one of a million. The authority thought that the movie is non didactic and it lacks a happy end. What's more the characters' cynical posture and the way they sacrifice their time for fun, instead of doing something productive, create the wrong idea in the society. Some critics though that the movie is highbrow, because of its sophisticated existential dialogue. There was one more criticism to the film, that said about promoting entertainment, night life, provocative fashion etc. The movie was considered to create the wrong model of society. After releasing the movie with a final, current version of the ending some critics thought that it's even worse than the previous ones, as instead of leaving the audience thinking and asking questions, they let them accept the way things ended.
Another important thing to mention is jazz music. It was a very common thing to play jazz music at this time. Young people were fascinated about it and they used to spend their spare time in a famous Warsaw pub, where jazz concerts took place.
Jan Svankmajer is a Czech sculptor and filmmaker born in Prague. He studied at the College of Applied Arts in Prague and later in the Department of Puppetry at the Prague Academy of Performing Arts. After studies Jan Svankmajer started working as a theatre director, chiefly in association with the Theatre of Masks and the Black Theatre. He's best known for his surrealistic animated films, which had a huge influence on many filmmakers such us Tim Burton, Brothers Quay and Terry Gilliam.
Dimensions of Dialogue is a short animated film presenting various forms of communication. It's divided into three parts and each part presents another dimension of dialogue: eternity, passion and exhaustion. In the first part - dialog, we can see two different figures in a human shape. One is made of cookware, such as cutlery and porcelain. The other one is made of fruits and vegetables. The characters are having a fight and are eating each other, but then they reshape into a different character.
HOW JAN SVANKMAJER BECAME AN INSPIRATION FOR THE QUAY BROTHERS?
The Quay Brothers were both studying ilustration at Philadelphia Collage of Art. After graduation they came to London to take up studies at Royal Collage of Art. In 1972 they came back to USA, where they earned some money working as waiters and book limners. After 7 years they came back to England, where they opened their own film studio, Konnick. Every since then they make many animation fims, one feature film and a couple of commercials and music videos. In 1997 they demanded to have all their work erased from the Internet.
"Street of Crocodiles" is a beautiful, mysterious animation inspired by equally admirable tale by a Polish, valued prose writer - Bruno Schulz. It's a story about a provincial museum, where one of the exhibits is a mysterious wooden machine. Apparently thanks to it the guard is able to watch an old map, on which the Street of Crocodiles is indicated by a white spot. The film has its motto at the end, quoting Schulz' words from the last page of his book. "The Street of Crocodiles was a concession of our city to modernity and metropolitan corruption. Obviously, we were unable to afford anything better than a paper imitation, a montage of illustrations cut out from last year's mouldering newspapers."
In the 20s an avant-garde Surrealist art movement has started. Surrealism is a 'visual expression of internal perception'. It's a fantasy, over reality and above all dreams and subconsciousness. Surrealism is a complete contradiction of realism, classicism, empiricism, utilitarianism and rationalism. I would first like to start with Salvador Dali's paintings, as he's probably one of my favourite artists of all times. There are three paintings of Dali at the exhibition: "Metamorphosis of Narcissus", "Mountain Lake" and "Autumnal Cannibalism".
One of the main advantages of London is the possibility of appreciating art for free anytime you'd like. Tate Modern is possibly one of the most common and frequently visited art gallery in the capital. Its intriguing architecture attracts the tourists and it fits beautifully with the Millennium Bridge next to it, even though it kind of looks like a factory from outside. The uniqueness of the building won't surely disappoint your expectations inside, after you enter it. We can call it a factory, as it's a place where our sensitivity, imagination and appreciation for art are being created. I myself got a chance to visit Tate Modern plenty of times already, but this time the purpose of my Sunday trip there was to have a look at one specific exhibition, which is "Poetry and Dreams: Surrealism and Beyond" on Level 2.
SALVADOR DALI IN TATE MODERN
"Metamorphosis of Narcissus" is Dali's interpretation of an old, common Greek myth about Narcissus. He was only in love with himself and broke the hearts of his lovers. As a punishment from God, he got to see his own reflection in a pool, which he immediately fell in love with. However, after some time he realised it's impossible to embrace it and so he died out of frustration.
"WAY OF VISUALLY OBSERVING THE COURSE OF THE METAMORPHOSIS OF NARCISSUS REPRESENTED IN THE PRINT ON THE OPPOSITE PAGE:
If one looks for some time, from a slight distance and with a certain 'distant fixedness', at the hypnotically immobile figure of Narcissus, it gradually disappears until at last it is completely invisible.
The metamorphosis of the myth takes place at that precise moment, for the image of Narcissus is suddenly transformed into the image of a hand which rises out of his own reflection. At the tips of its fingers the hand is holding an egg, a seed, a bulb from which will be born the new narcissus - the flower. Beside it can be seen the limestone sculpture of the hand - the fossil hand of the water holding the blown flower."
The poem to which Dali referred was published in a book, entitled "Metamorphosis of Narcissus". The book consists of Explanatory notes above.
"Mountain Lake" is unique in its use of multiple image. When you look at the painting you can either see the lake or a fish. These two images can be seen simultaneously thanks to human imagination. For those who knew Salvador the interpretation of the painting could be completely different, as it has a hidden personal story behind it. Apparently his parents visited the lake after the death of their first child, whose name was also Salvador. Throughout this paintings he wanted to express the feeling of being haunted by his brother, even though he's never got to know him.
"Autumnal Cannibalism" was painted after the Spanish Civil War. It presents an embrace of a cannibal couple. In the background we can observe a Spanish landscape. The painting also refers to the legend of William Tell, which is a story of father and son, where one was forced to kill another.
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN DALI'S PAINTINGS AND "UN CHIEN ANDALOU"?
Luis Buñuel's and Salvador Dali's "Un Chien Andalou" is a number one representative of surrealist cinema. The cinema full of abstract and irrationalism, that not only is hard to understand, but hard to even interpret it in your own way. Having seen the film I now can only try to find some connections and similarities between the film and Dali's paintings. I can clearly observe some connections, such us the theme of death, frustration and darkness in a mental way. However, the story of "Un Chien Andalou" is said to have be created from both Buñuel's and Dali's dreams. This helps me to defend myself, when saying that I'm not able to come up with any interpretation of this movie, that could make any sense. The film is created out of people dreams, which no one ever will manage to fully understand. The artists decided to gather their subconscious images in one short abstract film. I would say it's about the fear we all experience subconsciously when we're asleep, as our dreams mostly consist of anxiety we feel in our daily life.
WHAT'S MORE TO SEE AT THE EXHIBITION?
Although after reading the story that's hidden behind it has really engaged my interest and curiosity. Even though, it's an abstract picture it presets a real, personal story of an artist. The tragic love affair is shown with the use of nice, delicate colours. Dance usually reminds us of something happy, but in this case it's more of a commemoration. What's rather rare in this particular painting, as far as I'm concerned, is the fact that it presents a realistic situation in a surrealist way. After you become familiar with the story, you can easily understand it and imagine what the artist is trying to convey.
“Everyone wants to understand art. Why don’t we try to understand the song of a bird? Why do we love the night, the flowers, everything around us, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting, people think they have to understand. If only they would realize above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only an insignificant part of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world though we can’t explain them; people who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree.”
- Pablo Picasso
Another interesting painting at the exhibition, that I simply can't stop staring at each time I visit the gallery is "Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams I" by an African artist Ibrahim El-Salahi. It's mostly because of its esthetic colours and interesting ghostly figures, why it's drawn my attention in the first place.
Last but not least, I'd like to mention "A Mi-Voix" by Dorothea Tanning. "I just wanted to paint a white and grey picture that would still have colour in its veins as we have blood under our winter-white skin’ she said." I believe she's achieved exactly what she'd wanted to. Although the painting is in grey, it gives you the feeling of many various colours. Comparing to all the previous painting I wrote about it doesn't seem very surrealistic to me. However, its unique shapes, that are truly hard to interpret surely fit into the movement.
"Vertigo" is considered to be one of Hitchcock's masterpieces. Detective John 'Scottie' Ferguson (James Stewart) retires after a terrible accident, in which his coworker fell of the building's rooftop and died. Since that day John suffer from the fear of height, but more stronger than acrophobia. One day his close friend (Tom Helmore) asks him for help with following his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak), as he thinks she's acting strange and might even put herself in danger. At some point John falls in love with the woman.
We can easily put ourselves in the position of the main character, as we follow the story from his point of view. Hitchcock even lets the audience enter into John's mind so deeply that we feel his fears. We get the insight to his psyche through many amazing artistic measures, such us the effect of moving stairs or the man falling into a deep spiral precipice. These effects perfectly show the world in the movie the way he sees it.
Not only was "Vertigo" a huge inspiration for many filmmakers, but it made some of them to even become involved in filmmaking as well. As an example, a famous Korean director, Park Chan-wook, decided that he wants to be a director after watching "Vertigo" for the first time. Brian de Palma, also inspired by Hitchcock's masterpiece, made his famous movie "Obsession" in 1976. Even musicians, such as the band Faith No More found a source of inspiration in the movie. The music video to their song Last Cup Of Sorrow is basically a short version of the story. Those are only a couple of examples, but Hitchcock influenced many artists with his movie Vertigo.
Hong Kong - a huge city with millions of people, but everyone's living a solitary life. On the streets of Hong Kong people only pass each other in a hurry everyday. They never stop, they never talk, they only make some daily small talks with random people, which are immediately forgotten. Kai War Wong presents two short novels about two men living their lonely lives in the city. Two stories about two different men dealing with their breakups and falling in love all over again. The only thing that somehow connects them to each other is the fact, that they're both policemen and they both tend to eat dinner at the same kebab shop almost every day. Another common factor in both men lives is alienation. The movie begins with a story of Cop 223, who’s broken up with his girlfriend. He's deeply overwhelmed by the loneliness. It's an incredibly sad story in contrast to the second one. The other half of the movie leaves us with a hope for the future. It tells a story about Cop 663, who tried to survive in a long distance relationship, as his girlfriend is a flight attendant. He's full of hopes all the time, even though deep down he's aware of the fact she left him.
“Somehow everything comes with an expiry date. Swordfish expires, meat sauce expires.
Even cling-film expires. Is there anything in the world which doesn’t?
“If memories could be canned, would they also have expiry dates?
If so, I hope they last for centuries.”
They try to fulfill the emptiness in a different, however both funny ways. Cop 223 purchases a tin of pineapples with an expiration date of May 1 each day for a month. It's amazing how many smart thoughts we can hear from a man reflecting on a tin. Cop 663, on the other hand, talks to his apartment furnishing.
You mustn't let yourself go. You've gained weight so fast.
She may have gone but life goes on. You must stop indulging yourself.
[to new bar of soap]
You're a real disappointment to me. You've changed so much.
You can't just switch personality like this. Her walking out is no excuse.
[to new towel]
"Chungking Express" is one of Quentin Tarantino's favourite movies. A very interesting thing he said about it in an interview is the fact, that War Kai Wong wasn't really planning on doing this movie. At this time he was working on his other masterpiece "Ashes of Time". Creation of this movie, from filming to editing, took him plenty of time. Which is why, he decided that he needs to make something else before he finishes it. He wanted to make a quick, lively story just to get some time off working on the main movie. You can clearly see that intention in "Chungking Express", as Tarantino says - "the film has this kind of go for it, jumpy energy". You can definitely see that in many different aspects of the movie. The main aspect is cinematography. The use of it is very interesting and different from usual. The whole movie consists of tracking shots with a hand held camera, what makes it unique and incredibly nice to look at. From the first scene we can see how the action is being chased by camera. All shots are very claustrophobic and beautifully coloured. It makes us feel as we're in Hong Kong and we're a part of the plot. What is also amazing in the movie is that, although the story may seem simple it's full of wisdom, that changes its simplicity. It's a movie very easy on the eye, but at the same time it has a psychological impact on the viewers.
Another attractive aspect of "Chungking Express" is the soundtrack and the dietetic music in the movie. The song California Dreaming by The Mamas & the Papas is being played many times over and over again. It gives us this incredible energy and the feeling of happiness. It's an interesting contrast, because the movie brings up an unpleasant subject of loneliness, but it's made in a very friendly atmosphere.
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