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Polish Film Festival in America

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Polish Film Festival in America

The tenth annual Polish Film Festival in America, produced by the Society for Arts, continues Friday, November 13, through Sunday, November 22. Screenings will be at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence. Tickets are $7, $6 for Society for Arts members; passes are also available for $35 (six screenings) and $75 (fifteen screenings). For more information call 773-486-9612. Commentary by Adam Langer (AL) and Ted Shen (TS).

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 13

Marcel Lozinski retrospective, program three

The career of Marcel Lozinski, one of Poland's most respected documentarians, spans more than 25 years. Lozinski tends to focus on ordinary people and places and finds extraordinary meaning and poetry in the mundane. The first documentary on this program, So That It Doesn't Hurt, is a follow-up to The Visit, which was shot 24 years ago. The subject of both is Urszula, an intellectual who chose to toil on the family farm in self-imposed isolation. Her decision not to marry or to continue writing intrigued the interviewer for The Visit, who asked deeply personal questions. In 1997 Lozinski and the same film crew returned to find Urszula older but serene. A new interviewer, a woman about Urszula's age, banters with her on issues ranging from literature to metaphysics, still trying to figure her out. The problem with this whole enterprise is that Urszula has the charisma of a bashful nun and is only mildly interesting. How you react to this profile depends on your tolerance for conversations that only slowly strip away an emotional facade. On the same program, The Katyn Forest (1990), about the slaughter of Polish officers by the Soviets in 1940. (TS) (7:00)

Delay Line

Krzysztof Zanussi directed this drama about the host of a TV talk show and a live broadcast that gets out of hand. To be shown without subtitles. (8:45)

Love Me and Do Anything

A classically trained musician, reduced to a job as a church organist, leaves his hometown and his fiancee and winds up playing disco in a nightclub. Robert Glinski directed this 1997 feature. (9:55)

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14

Mammy, Can Chickens Talk?

Frank L. Baum's book Ozma of Oz inspired this children's fantasy about a young girl left alone in her mother's car and the talking hen that spirits her off to an imaginary kingdom. Directed by Tadeusz Wilkosz and Krystyna Krupska-Wysocka; to be shown without subtitles. (4:00)

Safe Heaven

A peculiar but engaging hybrid of rustic romance, religious satire, and flat-footed cops-and-robbers high jinks, Jacek Bromski's film follows the exploits of a beautiful young Russian woman who takes up with an innocent church organist after being robbed on board a bus by a well-connected Ukrainian outlaw. Airy and unpredictable, the film is most effective in its satirical details (a meddlesome parish priest supplies his flock with pagers so they can record their acts of contrition on his answering machine); the rather uninvolving crime story, in which the heroine is pursued by police who want her to testify against the outlaw, gets mired in unconvincing violence, and the dumb-ass Burt Reynolds comedy clashes with the film's considerable wit and charm. (AL) (6:00)

The Family Events

See Critic's Choice. (8:00)

Sekal Has to Die

Moody, distressingly violent, and suffused with portentous Old and New Testament symbolism, Vladimir Michalek's film is one of the dreariest and most unpleasant westerns in recent memory. Set in Nazi-occupied territory during World War II, it details the efforts of an evil yet devoutly Catholic town to coerce its new, vaguely Christlike blacksmith into murdering Sekal, the plundering bastard who's taking away their land. But despite some devastatingly beautiful scenery and camera work reminiscent of Terrence Malick's films, the formulaic plot and familiar characterizations crumple under the weight of Michalek's biblical pretensions, and his somber nihilism becomes overwhelming. A rape is committed offscreen by a cackling dwarf, a moonlit knife fight culminates in overwrought crucifixion imagery, the title character tells his mother that he'll defecate on her--Michalek's cheerlessness makes Unforgiven look like Support Your Local Sheriff. (AL) To be shown without subtitles. (9:55)

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 15

Kingdom of Green Glade: The Return

In this sequel to the 1994 animated film, a rapacious businessman who's planning to level a forest is stranded there with his young grandson, and a magical butterfly teaches the old man a lesson. Directed by Krzysztof Kiwerski and Longin Szmyd. (Noon)

The Sacrum

A conceited 40-something Baryshnikov clone, obsessed with his aging body, returns to the dance company where his career began to perform in a benefit; when his dance partner for Romeo and Juliet injures herself in rehearsal, the dancer must perform with his ex-wife, and their old passions are reignited. This rather unoriginal backstage drama is made palatable by its superb cast, its complex characterizations, and the sure-handed direction of Krzysztof Zanussi (Our God's Brother), who keeps it from turning into another dance soap opera in the tradition of The Turning Point. Most of the plot twists are telegraphed far in advance, and the conclusion is predictable, but the two principals add intelligence and layers of nuance, and the cleverly bitchy exchanges between the other dancers are particularly well realized. Also known as The Last Circle; to be shown without subtitles. (AL) (2:00)

Delay Line

See listing under Friday, November 13. On the same program, the Polish-American Symphony Orchestra performs the film music of Wojciech Kilar. (4:00)

Sekal Has to Die

See listing under Saturday, November 14. (6:05)

Deserter's Gold

Janusz Majewski's His Majesty's Deserters (1985) detailed the exploits of five misfit Austro-Hungarian soldiers assigned to guard Italian prisoners of war during World War I. This sequel, also directed by Majewski, finds two of the characters caught up in a plot to steal gold from the gestapo during the Nazi invasion of Poland. (8:00)

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16

His Majesty's Deserters

A 1985 action comedy about a group of Austro-Hungarian soldiers considered "politically suspect" and assigned to guard an Italian prisoner-of-war camp. Janusz Majewski directed. Showing in two parts with separate admissions. (Part one, 7:00; part two, 8:45)

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17

The Sacrum

See listing under Sunday, November 15. (7:00)

The Family Events

See Critic's Choice. (8:45)

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18

Amok

Natalia Koryncka-Gruz directed this feature about the deepening friendship between a young radio reporter and a broker on the Warsaw stock exchange. (7:00)

Krzysztof Kieslowski

retrospective, program three

Six documentaries: The Hospital (1976), From a Night Porter's Point of View (1977), I Don't Know (1977), Seven Women of Different Ages (1978), The Station (1980), and Talking Heads (1980). (8:45)

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19

Vershinin's Bed

Andrzej Domalik's backstage drama cleverly explores the interplay among film, theater, and video as a TV crew records a rehearsal of Chekhov's The Three Sisters, framed by a film about the playwright's final days. Much of the backstage plot is pretty conventional: an enthusiastic ingenue gets to jump into a lead role, an actor rebuffs the advances of a smitten director, a great actress tries to overcome stage fright, a weary old pro turns his back on his trade. But Domalik handles this shopworn material with great subtlety; instead of lingering on the melodramatic, he catches simple words, gestures, and glances, allowing us to surmise the rest. His approach ultimately precludes much ironic distance from the self-absorbed thespians, yet this oddly engaging film does open a window onto a society too rarely depicted, in which acting and directing are still regarded as intellectual pursuits. (AL) (7:00)

Someone Else's Happiness

A heaping helping of made-for-TV treacle. Coincidences and logical leaps abound as a young boy's bicycle accident transforms his unconvincingly happy family into an unconvincingly unhappy one. When the boy's father is refused as a blood donor, he immediately questions his parenthood and seeks genetic testing; after his suspicions are confirmed his wife does some nifty detective work and concludes that their child was switched at birth with that of an equally unhappy German couple. This scenario grows even more preposterous with an aborted kidnapping, child-swapping schemes, and a boys' river escape straight out of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Forced to play boneheaded adults or cloyingly sweet children, the actors struggle with banal, sub-ER dialogue courtesy of writer-director Miroslaw Bork and coscreenwriter Hans-Werner Honert. Unimaginatively filmed, scored with lugubrious piano and strings that dictate the desired emotional response, Someone Else's Happiness might function effectively as a public service film discouraging genetic testing, but as a narrative it fails to evoke emotion even in its most bathetic scenes. (AL) (8:45)

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