The 17th Polish Film Festival in America runs Saturday, November 5, through Sunday, November 20, at the Beverly Arts Center, the Copernicus Center, and the Society for Arts, 1112 N. Milwaukee. Tickets are $8-$10; a festival pass, good for five screenings, is available for $45. Following are selected features screening Saturday through Thursday, November 5 through 10; for a full festival schedule visit www.pffamerica.com. Unless otherwise noted, all films are in Polish with subtitles. For more information call 773-486-9612.
R My Nikifor
In the most extraordinary cross-dressing performance since Linda Hunt's in The Year of Living Dangerously, 85-year-old character actress Krystyna Feldmann incarnates the wizened, semiautistic Polish "primitive" painter Nikifor. Krzysztof Krauze's oddball biopic (2004) shows Nikifor wandering into the neat studio of the bureaucrat-sanctioned brush pusher Marian Wlosinski in 1960. Serenely oblivious to most of the social niceties of hygiene and behavior, he silently commandeers art supplies and a desk while offhandedly denigrating Wlosinski's work, eventually derailing the young man's career and marriage. As Nikifor obsessively paints buildings, villagers, and saints, crafting some 40,000 works, Wlosinski sacrifices everything to care for him, and the communist bureaucracy of the picturesque mountain resort town scrambles to cope with the decidedly problematic folk artist and his fame. 100 min. (Ronnie Scheib) (Wed 11/9, 7 PM, Beverly Arts Center)
R My Summer of Love
This warmly intimate coming-of-age story (2004) is the latest from Pawel Pawlikowski, a native of Poland who got his start as a documentary director for the BBC (Tripping With Zhirinovsky) and graduated to dramatic features with Last Resort (2000). Based on a novel by Helen Cross, it follows the growing romance between a tony college student on summer vacation (Emily Blunt) and a tough Scottish girl (Nathalie Press) whose brother (Paddy Considine) has returned from prison a born-again Christian. This triangle is the entire story, but it's so fraught with unresolved issues of class, sexuality, and spiritual need, and so carefully observed by Pawlikowski, that it opens out like the movie's West Yorkshire countryside. In English. R, 86 min. (JJ) (Sun 11/6, 2 PM, Copernicus Center)
This bleakly misanthropic police procedural doesn't entirely avoid genre cliches, but it's a solid drama nonetheless. Five members of a special homicide division track an elusive Armenian crime boss, and their backstories reveal motives that range from the selfish to the altruistic. One cop begins a passionate affair with the boss's ravishing daughter, while another accepts a bribe that could thwart the investigation. Patryk Vega directed, and Miroslaw Kuba-Brozek greatly abets the film's raw, unvarnished look with verite-style camerawork. 100 min. (JK) (Sun 11/6, 8 PM, Copernicus Center; Mon 11/7, 7 PM, Beverly Arts Center)
R Solidarity, Solidarity . . .
This collection of narrative and documentary shorts examines the lasting relevance of Poland's Solidarity movement 25 years after the shipyard strikes that defied the Communist Party. Three are especially good: In Andrzej Jakimowski's A Sack, two thieves on a train steal a man's satchel, only to discover that it's filled with pro-Solidarity leaflets; after the owner is arrested, they become unlikely activists, scattering the leaflets as the train enters the next station. Robert Glinski's Landscape surveys the Gdansk shipyards, now shockingly abandoned, a symbol of unrealized dreams. And in Malgorzata Szumowska's Father, a self-absorbed young woman recounts her dad's involvement in the movement, poignantly portraying his disenchantment with present-day Poland. 113 min. (JK) Director Feliks Falk and actor Jan Nowicki will attend this opening-night screening; tickets are $20. (Sat 11/5, 8 PM, Copernicus Center)
Three pals in their 60s struggle to come to terms with old age in this 2004 feature directed by Jacek Borcuch. After a heart attack lands one of them in the hospital, all three are forced to negotiate a series of life changes, and their journey is portrayed as evidence of the mutability of the human spirit. Jan Nowicki gives a commanding performance as the most life-embracing of the trio, a vain man but also a loyal friend. After coming to visit, the son of the heart attack victim becomes enmeshed in the antics of his dad's buddies, including a hilarious car-theft caper. 92 min. (JK) Nowicki will attend the screening. (Sun 11/6, 4 PM, Copernicus Center)
The Unburied Man
Jan Nowicki transcends this by-the-numbers docudrama (2004) with a richly detailed performance as Hungarian prime minister Imre Nagy, who defied the Soviet Union and withdrew his country from the Warsaw Pact in 1956. Abandoned by his supporters and confined to a dank and filthy Romanian prison, Nagy was interrogated repeatedly but refused to cooperate with his captors, and ultimately he was returned to Hungary to be executed as a traitor. Nowicki portrays him as a man gaining in strength and conviction even as his adversities multiply. Marta Meszaros directed; with Lili Horvath. In Hungarian and Romanian with subtitles. 128 min. (JK) Nowicki will attend the Thursday screening. (Tue 11/8, 7 PM, Beverly Arts Center; Thu 11/10, 8 PM, Copernicus Center)