Our guide to the 25th Polish Film Festival in America | Movie Sidebar | Chicago Reader

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Our guide to the 25th Polish Film Festival in America

The festival opens this weekend with Andrzej Wajda's Walesa, Man of Hope

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Presented by the Society for Arts, the Polish Film Festival in America runs Friday, November 8, through Sunday, November 24, at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton; Rosemont 18, 9701 Bryn Mawr, Rosemont; and Society for Arts, 1112 N. Milwaukee. Unless otherwise noted, tickets are $14; passes are $75 (seven films) and $150 (15 films), excluding the opening- and closing-night programs.

For more information call 312-486-9612 or visit pffamerica.org. Following are reviews of selected films; unless otherwise noted, all are in Polish with subtitles.

Floating Skyscrapers In this bleak second feature by Tomasz Wasilewski, a closeted, ultramasculine professional swimmer (Mateusz Banasiuk) falls head over heels for a younger man (Bartosz Gelner), which complicates the athlete's relationship with an unsuspecting girlfriend and distracts him from his intense training. The guys forge ahead despite these obstacles, not to mention Poland's general antagonism toward LGBT people, though the film is hardly optimistic. Washed-out cinematography, coercive camera work, and a tragic narrative stifle any sense of hope for the wayward lovers. I was discomfited by Wasilewski's clinical assessment of the characters: his hackneyed explanation for their sexual orientation (overbearing mothers, naturally) and his cold depictions of their courtship (and lovemaking) suggest a punitive attitude. Drew Hunt 93 min. Tue 11/12, 8 PM, Rosemont 18; Wed 11/13, 7 PM, Facets Cinematheque

The Last Floor An overzealous captain in the Polish army (Robert Więckiewicz) gets discharged and goes around the bend; convinced that the government is out to kill him, he barricades his wife and children in their high-rise apartment, warning them against the dangers of Jews, homosexuals, technology, and big government and subjecting them to physical and emotional abuse. Though passable as social commentary—the captain's ranting about declining morality and patriotism gives a good sense of the conservatism of Polish society—the film is hopeless as drama. Director Tadeusz Król draws the family in broad strokes, diminishing whatever allegorical insights the story might yield. Drew Hunt 74 min. Tue 11/12, 7 PM, and Thu 11/21, 7 PM, Facets Cinematheque

Lasting This Polish-Spanish coproduction strives for the elemental power of silent melodrama, but its characterization is vague and its emotional displays register as merely hysterical. Two Polish college students fall in love with each other while working summer jobs in Spain, but a heavy-handed plot device forces the boy to end the affair prematurely. The girl falls into a debilitating malaise and so does the movie, grinding to a halt once the characters return to Poland. Things eventually pick up again, thanks to a few more contrivances, and the film concludes with an overwrought epiphany that feels totally unearned. Jacek Borcuch directed his own script. In Polish and Spanish with subtitles. Ben Sachs Sat 11/9, 7:15 PM, Facets Cinematheque; Tue 11/19, 8 PM, Rosemont 18

The Vulture I get it: study astrophysics, crack elaborate capers. In this ambitious thriller by Eugeniusz Korin, a stone-faced police officer with a scientific bent must locate a string of psychopaths and serial killers whose mysterious disappearances appear to be connected. Alexander Wolin, aka the Vulture, is no ordinary cop: he listens to classical music during stakeouts and uses a giant blackboard in his apartment to scrawl inexplicable formulas that somehow relate to his investigation. The action moves at a frenzied pace (while simultaneously taking forever), the storytelling is linear but discombobulating, and the climax falls flat. For good measure, there's a pointless love story and a dying boy in need of a heart transplant. Kevin Warwick 133 min. Sat 11/9, 9 PM, and Thu 11/21, 8 PM, Facets Cinematheque

Man of Hope Read our full review.

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