DIRECTOR: JERZY STUHR
COUNTRY: POLAND 1997
CINEMATOGRAPHY: PAWEL EDELMAN
MUSIC: ADAM NOWAK
CAST: Irina Alfyorova, Katarzyba Figura, Jerzy Nowak, Dominika Ostalowska, Karolina Ostrozna, Jerzy Stuhr
SUPER FEATURES: Very enjoyable film... funny and poignant moments.
While this film states right off the bat that it is dedicated to Krysztof Kieslowski, it really is a tribute to itself, that it really owes a little less to that director than it does to someone like Luis Bunuel, whose montages in his later films created some rather interesting situations and stories. And the ending, is what really gives it away, with a rather enjoyable "En Angel Exterminador" styled twist ... another victim coming for more.
There are four stories in this one, and they take place simultaneously, and feature, for the most part, the same actors, all roles played by actors that had graced the late Kieslowski's films. And the main character, played by the director himself, is the drive in all four stories, and the joke in the end as well.
One story, deals with a professor, who gets flattered by a young student, when she writes in the test that she is taking that she loves him. He is embarrassed, but nevertheless has to discuss this with her. The situation is a bit embarrassing for him. Another story, deals with a commander who is assigned to a role in the army, for which he is to have his wife with him...... he doesn't have a wife. The third one, is an odd one, where he is a criminal, who is in love with a particular woman, who betrays him... for which he gets even with her beautifully, by getting her time as well, right next to him. And the most important story, is the fourth one, dealing with a priest. This provides the film with its strongest content, and most enduring story. There is nothing funny about this fourth one, but the "love" is resolved, in a fashion that states in many ways, where some institutions are failing people in not only that country and in many other parts of the world. The man is a priest, and he discovers eleven years later, that he has a daughter. His resolution, and his ability to discover himself and do the right thing, is the one thing that stands out as phenomenal, and makes this a special film.
And there are very funny moments in the story.. all four protagonists do some time with an older man, who records all the events, and he questions each man, about his love for the woman that the story is about... and this would have done Luis Bunuel proud. After having used two actresses playing the same role in "That Obscure Object of Desire", he went on to tackle even further the weirdness that we sometimes stand for, and our petty resolutions regarding our loves and our lives... this is the main theme in the film.
In all cases, the situations come to the light, in the most unusual of situations. The teacher that finds himself in a rather precarious situation, eventually finds himself trapped and has to let the girl fall apart on her own, and therefore get thrown out of the school. But he maintained a reasonable sense of decorum and character, as he did not abuse the situation, although he almost did once, and the second time he was inadvertently interrupted, which was just as well, for it was clear this was a dead end for him. In his interrogation, he states pretty much that. The army story is funnier, in that there is a past lover that he is attracted to, but they do not seem to connect... it appears that there are a few things that slow it all down.. she is Russian, and does not have a visa, and that is a ticklish situation in those parts of the world where people try to find quick marriages in order to get out of the countries they were in. And this affair comes apart further at the seems by an sad lack of understanding and communication. She has a job offer, which would have allowed her to stay and thus give their relationship a chance... he quits on it, before the offer comes through. This story ends in a dead end hallway, like the professor's did. The third one, is the funniest of all of them, and there is a real love affair, but the lover girl left for a while because he was in jail. But she's back, since her fling did not last. And in the process finds out that he has money stashed away, and she gets it, and immediately goes out of the country... oooppppss, bad deal. Now he gets more jail time ( stolen money ), and she is found in court, where he decides that he will take the rap, and she says out loud that she loves him... and we know that she will get jail time, but at least she can not get away with another guy, is his joke this time.
And the best story, is the one about the priest. An 11 year old girl comes to a church and tells the priest/confessor that she is his daughter. And she ahs all the facts straight. He admits to himself that it did happen, and the young girl ends up back in the orphanage, where she revolts with a vengeance, and finds a way out so she can go see her father again. In the meantime, the pries is having his battles inside his head about the whole thing. And it is his final decision that makes this film stand out, and makes the ending so special.
If anything, it is Jerzy Stuhr that stands out in this fine and very enjoyable film, as the excellent actor that he is. Playing four roles with different attributes is hard enough, but they are all in the same "body" only, and this is hard enough to do, and only the likes of Peter Sellers ever really did it well enough to be remembered for it.
If this film is a tribute to Kieslowski, there is one thing missing in it. The music of Zgbiniew Preisner, but this is handled very well by Adam Nowak, in a similar style and mood. There seems to be a different style of music, and each vignette sees to point to one film or another and the music seems to be the giveaway.
A very enjoyable film, with a lot of funny bits and pieces... but it really is more of a tribute to Luis Bunuel, than otherwise. But it is done by the family that Kieslowski created, with his themes of love, that were often ruined by some event or another, some of these just plain bad timing. But the love is always there, even if it does not happen, and drives the film.
4 of 5 GIBLOONS
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