Martin Scorsese Presents Masterpieces of Polish Cinema


Martin Scorsese has curated a selection of landmark Polish films, all newly restored, from some of the country’s most accomplished and lauded filmmakers, such as Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Krzysztof Zanussi, Jerzy Kawalerowicz, and Wojciech Has. Zanussi will appear in person as the Academy launches the series on May 2 with a screening of two of his films: the acidic college comedy “Camouflage” and the stirring drama “The Constant Factor”. The remaining series spans 1957–87 and encompasses the mind-bending absurdism of “The Hourglass Sanatorium”, the noir-tinted existentialism of “Night Train”, the New Wave eccentricities of “Innocent Sorcerers”, the period elegance of “The Promised Land” and much more. In partnership with the Cinefamily, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences screens 19 of Scorsese’s 21 selections across two venues and over two months.

Organized by Propaganda Foundation, DI Factory, CRF, and The Film Foundation, in cooperation with Kino RP, Milestone Films, Tor, Zebra, and Kadr, with the support of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland, the Polish Film Institute and the Polish National Audiovisual Institute.

All films presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as part of an ongoing series at LACMA.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles
Friday, May 2  (double feature)

Film director Zanussi’s sophisticated filmography detailed moral ambiguities, framing Poland’s adaptation to communist policy and the shift to a more materialist culture.
Informed by literature, science, philosophy and issues of faith, his filmography often focuses on the struggle between freedom and a disciplined life controlled by the demands of the greater culture. No matter where the films are set, they all convey a strong auteurial sense of the director’s emotions and thoughts. 

Zanussi’s work was noticed during his work in the amateur film movement of the 1950s and ’60s; nine of his eleven student films received awards. (Zanussi plays himself in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s “Camera Buff” about Poland’s amateur film scene’s involvement with factory workers. In fact Zanussi did advise working class filmmakers working in the amateur film circles.)

A Catholic, and a friend of Pope John Paul II, Zanussi filmed the acclaimed biopic about the Holy Father “From a Far Country”. In 1997 he filmed ” Our God’s Brother” a play written in the 1940s by Karol Wojtyła (Pope John Paul II) about Brother Adam Chmielowski.

(Krzysztof Zanussi in person)
7:30 p.m. CAMOUFLAGER (Barwy Ochronne) by Krzysztof Zanussi
1977, 101 minutes, color, DCP
Written and directed by Krzysztof Zanussi; with Piotr Garlicki, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Christine Paul-Podlasky, Mariusz Dmochowski, Wojciech Alaborski.
In person: writer/director Krzysztof Zanussi

A slyly absurdist comedy set against the petty machinations of academia, “Camouflage” is set in a provincial summer school camp in the throes of a competition. The shallowness and cynicism of this milieu becomes apparent through the relationship between a young linguistics professor, Jaroslaw, and his jaded senior colleague, Jakub. “All people are conformists just like you and I,” exclaims the latter, protesting against the liberal teaching approach of Jaroslaw. The vérité cinematography of Edward Kłosiński (Zentropa, The Promised Land) perfectly captures the verbal jousting between these formidable opponents, which is ratcheted up when the university’s rector pays a visit. Versed in philosophy and physics, renowned writer-director Krzysztof Zanussi injects wit and humor into his acerbic portrait of conformity. Although it was not intended as a political film, Camouflage was harshly received by the Polish government and placed on the year’s list of banned films. However, it did go on to become the country’s official Oscar® submission in the Foreign Language Film category.

9:30 p.m.THE CONSTANT FACTOR (Constans) by Krzysztof Zanussi
The Constant Factor (Constans)
Friday, May 2, 2014 | 9:30 pm
1980, 91 minutes, color, DCP

Written and directed by Krzysztof Zanussi; with Tadeusz Bradecki, Zofia Mrozowska, Malgorzata Zajaczkowska, Cezary Morawski, Witold Pyrkosz, Ewa Lejczak, Jan Jurewicz.

Warmly received at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won two awards, Krzysztof Zanussi’s stirring drama portrays a naïve but well-meaning young electrician, Witold, as he faces the hard truths of his world. He dreams of ascending the Himalayas—a snowy vision Zanussi cuts to throughout, accented by Wojciech Kilar’s (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Pianist) mighty score—just as his father had done before him. His skill in mathematics earns him a job in an international trade company, which takes him everywhere from India to Austria. But he soon finds the position grating and is constantly thwarted by his own candidness. Confronting a death in his family and the petty corruptions of his colleagues, Witold soldiers onward in this powerful film. Its depiction of the struggle between chance and destiny reaches a shocking conclusion in its unforgettable final scene. “The chess-master precision of Zanussi’s narrative is closer, as film, to Bresson or Rohmer than it is to the passionate sprawls of Wajda or Kieślowski . . . every element in this spare, crystalline film is integrated into the whole.” —J. Hoberman.

Friday, May 9 (double feature)
Ashes and Diamonds (Popiół i diamen) by Andrzej Wajda
Friday, May 9, 2014 | 7:30 pm
1958, 104 minutes, black and white, DCP

Written by Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Andrzejewski, based on the novel by Jerzy Andrzejewski; directed by Andrzej Wajda; with Zbigniew Cybulski, Ewa Krzyzewska, Adam Pawlikowski, Waclaw Zastrzezynski, Bogumil Kobiela, Jan Ciecierski, Stanislaw Milski.

A masterpiece from the golden age of world cinema, Andrzej Wajda’s “Ashes and Diamonds” is set on the last day of World War II and the first day of peace—and between them, a night that changes everything. The film is largely seen through the eyes of Maciek (Zbigniew Cybulski, the so-called James Dean of Poland, in a career-defining performance), a young resistance soldier who begins the film by botching an assassination attempt. In a few hours dawn will end the Nazi slavery of the country, but also will bring a new communist regime to Poland. And Maciek still hasn’t hit his target: a villainous commissar. This is not the independence the idealistic young man and his brothers in arms have been fighting and dying for. Should Maciek continue his combat when he wants so badly to live a normal, peaceful life?  

9:25 p.m. NIGHT TRAIN (Piciag) by Jerzy Kawalerowicz
Night Train (Pociag)
Friday, May 9, 2014 | 9:25 pm
1959, 99 minutes, black and white, DCP
Written by Jerzy Lutowski and Jerzy Kawalerowicz; directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz; with Lucyna Winnicka, Leon Niemczyk, Teresa Szmigielówna, Zbigniew Cybulski, and Helena Dabrowska

A noirish psychological study and a hazily expressionistic tale of solitude, “Night Train” brings together two lonesome voyagers on an overnight train journey to the Baltic coast worthy of Hitchcock. Around them, a microcosm of the human experience plays out in the speeding railcars’ shadowy, cramped quarters: a coquette, bored with her older husband, attempts to seduce every available man; a former prisoner of a concentration camp fights his insomnia; and a stowaway (Zbigniew Cybulski) seeks his beloved. Is a runaway murderer in their midst? The local police think as much and when they board at a way station, everything changes. An artistic work of great subtlety that climaxes with a tense manhunt through the misty countryside, Night Train is a breakthrough by writer-director Jerzy Kawalerowicz.

Friday, May 16 (double feature)
7:30 p.m.INNOCENT SORCERES (Niewinni czarodzieje) by Andrzej Wajda/

Innocent Sorcerers (Niewinni czarodzieje)
Friday, May 16, 2014 | 7:30 pm
1960, 88 minutes, black and white, DCP
Written by Jerzy Andrzejewski and Jerzy Skolimowski; directed by Andrzej Wajda; with Tadeusz Lomnicki, Krystyna Stypulkowska, Wanda Koczeska, Kalina Jedrusik, Teresa Szmigielówna, and Roman Polanski

The French New Wave meets postwar Warsaw in this freewheeling boy-meets-girl comedy about a bohemian doctor-cum-jazz-drummer and his long, crazy night with a gamine beauty (Krystyna Stypulkowska, in her screen debut). An early Andrzej Wajda gem, Innocent Sorcerers boasts an all-star cast of Polish cinematic luminaries, including Roman Polanski as a squeaky-voiced jazz bandleader, Jerzy Skolimowski (also the film’s co-screenwriter) as a disgruntled boxer, Zbigniew Cybulski as an irascible taxi driver, and composer Krzysztof Komeda as, well, himself. A subtle ode to the modern world, with its electric razors, motor scooters and casual sex, Innocent Sorcerers is a fascinating time capsule of a generation.

9:10 p.m. THE PROMISED LAND (Ziemie obiecana) by Andrzej Wajda
Written by Andrzej Wajda, based on the novel by Władysław Stanisław Reymont; directed by Andrzej Wajda; with Daniel Olbrychski, Wojciech Pszoniak, Andrzej Seweryn, Anna Nehrebecka, Tadeusz Bialoszczynski, and Bozena Dykiel

In turn-of-the-century Łódź, three friends—a Polish nobleman, Karol Borowiecki; a German, Max Baum; and a Jew, Moritz Welt—shrink from nothing, including treachery and fraud, to build an industrial empire. In the footsteps of Dickens, writer-director Andrzej Wajda paints a bleak, sprawling picture of a chaotic city littered with dangerous factories and a maelstrom of conflicting cultures and classes. Based on the novel by Nobel Laureate Władysław Stanisław Reymont, Wajda’s lavish production masterfully melds the luxurious and the brutal. As his ruthless business tactics and an ill-fated affair leave Borowiecki with a fateful choice—either change his ways or sacrifice all compassion in order to protect his financial capital—Wajda’s film joins the ranks of darkly grand masterworks by Visconti and Ophüls. “The Promised Land” was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film and won numerous prizes including the Grand Prix Golden Lion from the Polish Film Festival.

Friday, May 23 (double feature)
7:30 p.m. BLIND CHANCE (Przypadek) by Krzysztof Kieslowski
9:45 p.m. A SHORT FILM ABOUT KILLING (Krotki film o zabijaniu) by Krzysztof Kieslowski

Blind Chance (Przypadek)
Friday, May 23, 2014 | 7:30 pm
1987, 123 minutes, color, DCP
Written and directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski; with Boguslaw Linda, Tadeusz Lomnicki, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Boguslawa Pawelec, and Marzena Trybala

One moment, one event, three completely different outcomes. From esteemed director Krzysztof Kieślowski comes a film examining the effects of even the smallest of choices. A young medical student’s life is forever changed by three subtle variations of the same innocuous episode: he does or does not catch a Warsaw-bound train, and subsequently, he either becomes a leading and progressively disenchanted Communist Party functionary, is arrested and sent to a labor camp where his anti-Party ire is stoked, or returns to his life in Łódź and becomes a family man. A poetic fable that touches on the elusive ambiguities of chance and fate, Blind Chance was heavily censored by the communist regime, due to its anti-Party messages, and was withheld for release for six years. The now-restored version of the film includes scenes never before shown to the public.

9:45 p.m.A SHORT FILM ABOUT KILLING (Krotki film o zabijaniu) by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Friday, May 30 (double feature)
Written by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Krzysztof Kieślowski; directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski; with Miroslaw Baka, Krzysztof Globisz, Jan Tesarz, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Barbara Dziekan, and Aleksander Bednarz

On a gray March day, the paths of three men cross in the same café as idealistic lawyer Piotr celebrates passing his bar exam while 20-year-old Jacek prepares to murder cabbie Marian. Krzysztof Kieślowski’s unflinching film is a psychological and ethical study of murder, both by individuals and by the state. “A horror film in which the killer is human nature itself,” says critic Rob Nelson, A Short Film about Killing employs Sławomir Idziak’s meticulous, heavily filtered cinematography to accentuate its grim ambience. A dual prize winner at Cannes, A Short Film about Killing expanded on a chapter of Kieślowski’s acclaimed Decalogue series and opened the door to an international career for the director that included works such as The Double Life of Véronique and the Three Colors trilogy.

FRI MAY 30 (double feature)
7:30 p.m. THE HOURGLASS SANATORIUM (Sanatorium pod klepsydra) by Wojciech Has

9:45 p.m. MOTHER JOAN OF THE ANGELS (Matka Joanna od anilw) by Jerzy Kawalerowicz

7:30 p.m. THE HOURGLASS SANATORIUM (Sanatorium pod klepsydra) by Wojciech Has
The Hourglass Sanatorium (Sanatorium pod klepsydra)
Friday, May 30, 2014 | 7:30 pm
1973, 124 minutes, color, DCP

Written by Wojciech Jerzy Has, based on stories by Bruno Schulz; directed by Wojciech Jerzy Has; with Jan Nowicki, Tadeusz Kondrat, Irena Orska, Halina Kowalska, Gustaw Holoubek, Mieczyslaw Voit, and Bozena Adamek

Wojciech Jerzy Has’s surrealist “The Hourglass Sanatorium” is a visionary reflection on the nature of time and the irreversibility of death. A young man embarks on a journey to see his dying father and succumbs to a procession of hallucinatory encounters on the grounds of a mystical, dilapidated hospice. The film’s screenplay draws from more than 20 stories by Jewish author Bruno Schulz, one of the most renowned Polish prose stylists of the 20th century. The resulting film is a tour de force of atmospherics and otherworldly set design. Reading Schulz’s works through the prism of his death during World War II, Has adds reflections on the Holocaust. Winner of the Jury Prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, “The Hourglass Sanatorium” was described by England’s The Quietus magazine as “an adult Alice in Wonderland . . . an exploration of waking and dreaming, without the relief of an objective eye to distance the trip.”

9:45 p.m. MOTHER JOAN OF THE ANGELS (Matka Joanna od anilw) by Jerzy Kawalerowicz
Mother Joan of Angels (Matka Joanna od aniołów)
Friday, May 30, 2014 | 9:45 pm
1961, 111 minutes, black and white, DCP
Written by Tadeusz Konwicki and Jerzy Kawalerowicz, based on the novel by Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz; directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz; with Lucyna Winnicka, Mieczyslaw Voit, Anna Ciepielewska, Maria Chwalibog, Kazimierz Fabisiak, and Stanislaw Jasiukiewicz

A virtuous, young priest is sent to a remote convent to investigate an outbreak of demonic possession—“a devil among the maidens”—that has left his predecessor burnt at the stake. A chamber drama worthy of Dreyer or Bergman, Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s spellbinding film traces the struggle between the calmly righteous exorcist and his slippery target, Mother Joan (Night Train’s Lucyna Winnicka), who claims to have eight demons raging within her. As the priest embarks on a struggle against the forces of darkness, he is faced with the choice of sacrificing his own purity and saving the convent from evil. This conflict is given a visual analogue in the elegant contrasts of black and white by cinematographer Jerzy Wójcik (“Ashes and Diamonds”). Drawing from the same 17th-century records that inspired Aldous Huxley’s book The Devils of Loudun and subsequently Ken Russell’s film “The Devils”, “Mother Joan of the Angels” is an ethereal study of faith, sin, and redemption.
TICKETS: $5 general admission
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About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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