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Polish Film Festival in America

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The festival continues November 12 through 21 at the Beverly Arts Center, the Copernicus Center, and the Society for Arts, 1112 N. Milwaukee. Tickets are $9, $7 for documentaries; a festival pass, good for five admissions, is $40. For more information call 773-486-9612; a complete schedule appears online at www.pffamerica.com.

The festival programming shifts toward video documentary this week, but there are still some challenging fiction films. New York-based filmmaker Lech Majewski is no stranger to the art world--he cowrote and coproduced Julian Schnabel's Basquiat--and his digital English-language feature Garden of Earthly Delights (106 min.), adapted from his novel Metaphysics, is a luminous, highly erotic treatise on art, love, and death. To complete her doctorate on Hieronymus Bosch, a beautiful dying woman (Claudine Spiteri) enlists her filmmaker boyfriend (Chris Nightingale) to shoot a documentary. The sumptuous details of the title painting are mirrored by his desire to record every moment of their remaining time together in Venice. Majewski will attend the screening. (Copernicus Center, Fri 11/12, 7 PM)

The Kafkaesque mystery Symmetry (2003, 99 min., in Polish with subtitles) ends where it begins--with a death by hanging. A young man (Arek Detmer) is wrongfully jailed on an assault charge that's impossible to refute, and as he learns the prison ropes, he forms alliances in unlikely quarters and discovers the perpetrator of another crime close to home. Konrad Niewolski wrote and directed this satisfying if austere drama, which he says was inspired by his own brushes with the law. (Copernicus Center, Fri 11/12, 9 PM)

For Warsaw (2003, 104 min., in Polish with subtitles), writer-director Dariusz Gajewski adopts a storytelling style similar to Robert Altman's in Short Cuts. A traffic accident becomes the point of intersection for the lives of numerous unrelated characters: a young female runaway and the macho orphan who protects her, a tough hitchhiker who's dumped her boyfriend and taken up with a handsome but dangerous stranger, and a desperate father scouring the capital for his missing daughter. The wistful film is graced with comic touches and an ending redolent of Polish romanticism. (Copernicus Center, Sat 11/13, 9 PM; Society for Arts, Mon 11/15, 7 PM)

Also screening is Gavin Hood's In Desert and Wilderness (2001, 115 min., in Polish with subtitles). "In this old-fashioned adventure, based on a 1911 novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz (Quo Vadis?), an adolescent boy and a plucky young girl are kidnapped by an Arab tribe as part of an ill-fated uprising against British colonists," wrote Jack Helbig in his original Reader review. "But they escape and make their way across the deserts and jungles of Africa, encountering hungry lions, an injured elephant, a pair of slaves, and a badly wounded explorer waiting to die. Jacek Januszyk's cinematography emphasizes the harsh beauty of the landscape without overwhelming the story, and given the film's premise, Hood generally avoids the Kipling-esque cliches: black Africans, typically maligned as savages, are treated with unusual equanimity, though the Arab characters are either bloodthirsty killers or cowardly double-dealers." (Beverly Arts Center, Thu 11/18, 7 PM)

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