Cancer, blindness, and stroke: Our guide to this year's Polish Film Festival in America | Movie Feature | Chicago Reader

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Cancer, blindness, and stroke: Our guide to this year's Polish Film Festival in America

Things are tough all over in the 27th edition of the long-running fest.

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The 27th Polish Film Festival in America runs Friday, November 6, through Sunday, November 22, at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton; Rosemont 18, 9701 Bryn Mawr, Rosemont; and Society for Arts, 1112 N. Milwaukee. Tickets are $15, and a festival pass, good for seven screenings, is $75; for more information call 773-486-9612 or pffamerica.com.

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Carte Blanche A car crash—portrayed in one of those unnerving digital shots that show a vehicle racing into the lens through a character's side window—kills an old woman and leaves her driver (Andrzej Chyra), a quiet high school teacher, with retinal damage that gradually reduces his sight to a narrow, blurry field of vision. Toughing it out, he manages to pass for sighted, teaching his classes and even chaperoning a student trip, though the ruse can't go on forever. Writer-director Jacek Lusiński, who based this on a true story, generates a fair amount of suspense as the teacher's predicament is taking shape, but a game-changing romance with a fellow teacher, who's oblivious to his handicap, makes the premise suddenly seem a lot hokier. Oddly, Lusiński does little with the emotional hangover one might expect from the crash, preferring such plot devices as the hero memorizing an eye chart to pass an optometry exam. In Polish with subtitles. 106 min. Mon 11/9, 7:30 PM, Rosemont, and Wed 11/11, 8:45 PM, Facets Cinematheque.

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Chemo The attractive lovers at the center of this grim comedy are the sort of jubilant partners in crime who improvise a flamboyant ballet among a crowd of elderly ballroom dancers, but their romance hits choppy water when the woman (Agnieszka Żulewska) is diagnosed with breast cancer. Improbably and impulsively, she and her man (Tomasz Schuchardt) decide to marry and have a child, and in quick succession she gets a double mastectomy, starts chemotherapy, and gives birth to a healthy baby girl. A tone of scrappy defiance, reminiscent of such American cancer comedies as 50/50 and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, combined with eccentric characterization, keeps this watchable for most of its length, but the story crumples into mush near the end, when the heroine, having enjoyed a few years of remission with her daughter, gets sick again and turns desperate. Bartosz Prokopowicz directed. 99 min. Tue 11/10, 8:45 PM, Facets Cinematheque, and Thu 11/19, 7:30 PM, Rosemont.

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Life Must Go On Bartek (Tomasz Kot) is getting on in years but hasn't gotten on as an actor: he performs clown comedy for schoolkids, emcees at the local disco, and warms up the crowd for tapings of Dancing With the Stars. When he's diagnosed with lung cancer and given three months to live, he begins to reassess his life, making contact with his ex-wife, his resentful daughter, and an old lover even as his oblivious bosses on the TV show tap him to replace the current on-air host. Maciej Migas, directing a clever script by Cezary Harasimowicz, gets some solid laughs from Bartek's devil-may-care attitude, communicated mainly through a strong selection of rock tunes on the soundtrack. The black comedy underlying all this is that the hero's emotional encounters with the women in his life only confirm how badly he's squandered his life. In Polish with subtitles. 86 min. Sun 11/8, 5 PM, Facets Cinematheque, and Thu 11/12, 7:30 PM, Rosemont.

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These Daughters of Mine Two sisters—the older a bitchy TV star (Agata Kulesza), the younger a fragile underachiever (Gabriela Muskala)—lock horns after their mother is left comatose by a stroke and their father is diagnosed with a brain tumor. "No man wants a woman who always wears pants," the father tells the older daughter, though in fact both women seem intent on jamming themselves into the same pair. There's some decent poker-faced comedy in the early scenes, as the older sister brings in a spiritualist to assess the mother and the younger one persuades family members to be prayed over by a shaman as they lie on a mandala-decorated carpet. Once the father takes ill, though, this settles into more mundane family drama, with the obligatory taboo-smashing scene of the actress and her dad puffing on the same joint. Kinga Dębska directed her own script. 88 min. Dębska attends the screening, which is sold out. Sat 11/7, 7 PM, Rosemont.  v

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