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Palm Springs in full swing with Polish triple play

The treasure chest of film choices this year at Palm Springs is so well stocked that the visiting film critic is faced with the dilemma of choice at every turn. Monday, day number five, three important Polish films were stacked up back to back; Jerzy Skolimowski's "Essential Killing", Jan Kidawa-Blonski's "Little Rose" and "All That I love", a debut entry by Jacek Borcuch. Skolimowski and Kidawa-Blonski, both veteran Polish directors, are guests of the fest and were on hand for Q & As after their respective screenings -- one problem, the screenings were held at the same time.
Noting that the Kidawa-Blonski film deals with "The events of 1968" (the expulsion of the Jewish intellectuals from Poland) and stars the great actor Andrzej Seweryn, I opted for "Rose" over "Killing", which turned out to be a propitious choice as "Little Rose" is not only a significant historical report on the nefarious machinations of the Communists in Poland, but in every other way a minor masterpiece. "Little Rose" was the code name of a Communist plant, a beautiful young woman, recruited by the Secret Police to seduce and spy on a famous dissident Jewish writer in order to get enough incriminating evidence on him to cook his goose. She was originally the lover of the SP officer who recruited her, but little by little comes to love the far older Jewish writer and realizing the evil of the Commies breaks with them and her lover --but too late --he is already done for. All this is based on real events with names changed to avoid law suits even now forty years later, but is such a highly charged drama of double and triple crossing, that it will keep any audience on edge, even if they are unfamiliar with the topical background history which is almost like last weeks news back in Poland.
Andrzej Seweryn, is simply superb in the role of the courageous Jewish writer, Adam, Magdalena Boczarska as the sexy blonde seductrous is a promising new face, and Robert Kieckiewicz is both repulsive and pathetic as the stern Secret Police recruiter, who is himself compromised when his fetching spy not only falls for but marries the main political suspect, and his doctrinaire political zeal turns to consuming personal jealously. This film was the big winner at the annual review of Polish films in Gdynia and was also voted best film at Moscow in 2010. It was strangely not submitted as this year's Polish entry to the Foreign language film Oscars in favor of the next film seen today, "All that I love" (Wszystko co kocham) described below.

"Wsystko Co Kocham" is also a Polish film with strong political reverberations, centering on a group of bold and rebellious teenage punk-rock musicians, set against the Shipyard strikes in Gdansk in 1981, which turned into the Solidarity Movement that would ultimately overturn the Communist regime. Janek, the handsome leader of the group, played by Mateusz Kosciukiewicz is a Young Mick Jagger look alike and a new Polish charmer. In the film his father played by veteran actor Andrzej Chyra, is a Naval commander at a Baltic shore base next to the high school attended by his son. Although he is part of the Communist military establishment he secretly approves of the anti-Communist music of Janek's group who call themselves «The Koszalin New Wave". Janek's girlfriend is the daughter of a Solidarity sympathizer whose family will eventually move to Germany because "'there is no future in this country" -- the attitude of many Poles when it seemed like Communism would never end. There is a steamy nude roll in the sand on the Baltic beach between the two teenage lovers, and a highly amusing sex scene when the middle aged but still sexy wife of another Commie Commander seduces an embarrassed but horny Janek. There is even a "guest shot" by General Jaruzelski announcing the State of Martial Law (to "protect Poland form a full scale Russian Invasion!") on TV, and some very convincing all around acting --Note: the father and son bonding over the death of Janek's grandmother and Chyra's mother -- Normally Chyra is the patented SOB in Polish films, but here, counter to usual type, he is a tender loving dad. Although "All I Love" is basically a light coming of age comedy with dramatic overtones, it made me realize once again, that what I really like about Polish films is the acting --the fact that most of Polish screen acting is so authentic that it makes you forget you are watching a performance and pulls you right into a role -- in high contrast to Hollywood star primpdom!

Jerzy Skolimowsi is as much a living legend in Polish film as Roman Polanski, and, in fact, wrote the screenplay for "Knife in the water", (1961) the film which brought Polanski to international attention at age 26. Skolimowski then went on to direct a batch of films that were so anti-Communist that, not only were they banned in Poland, but he was forced to leave the country. One, "RECY DO GORY" = Hands Up" -- showed a gigantic poster of Stalin with Four Eyes --Big Brother watching over all -- that was only shown in Poland after 1989, although underground copies circulated and this became the ultimate image of Communist Oppression. Skolimowski's latest film "Essential Killing", is a poetic visual indictment of other kinds of oppression going on in the world right now -- The basic story is that of a Taliban soldier who is captured by American forces in Afghanistan, is transferred to a secret location in Europe where he is interrogated and tortured, but eventually escapes to wander as a fugitive through a Nordic forest. The film has almost no dialogue and was awarded a special jury prize in Venice where actor Vincent Gallo was named best actor. "Essential Killing" is under consideration in the upcoming Hollywood Academy Awards for the categories of Best Picture and best director, Skolimowski, a well as for the cinematography of Adam Sikora.
The fact that such international heavyweights as Jan Kidawa-Blonski and Jerzy Skolimowski are guests of the festival, is testimony of the ever-increasing international outreach and importance of this cinema event in the desert, fast becoming one of the major contenders with which to reckon on the world festival map.
Alex, at the Renaissance Hotel Press Lounge where today's Five o'clock Happy Hour offerings are some amazing sandwitchery, classic dill pickles, and the usual Deli-Suspects from Sherman's Jewish Delicatessen on Tahquitz Canyon Drive in sunny downtown Palm Springs.
Alex Deleon, for

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