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Polish Cinema in a Transnational Context

Polish Cinema in a Transnational Context

Ewa Mazierska
Michael Goddard
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Polish Cinema in a Transnational Context
    Book Description:

    The opening up of Poland economically and politically to global influences after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, coupled with the rise of transnational approaches to the study of film, present ideal conditions for an examination of Polish cinema from a transnational vantage point. Yet not only have studies of Polish cinema remained largely within a national framework but Polish, and many other Eastern European cinemas, have also been virtually excluded from accounts of transnational cinema. 'Polish Cinema in a Transnational Context' addresses this lacuna in film studies by examining the international reception of Polish films in Europe and North America, Polish international coproductions and the presence of Polish performers in foreign films, and the works of subversive émigré auteurs like Andrzej Zulawski and Walerian Borowczyk. Authors in this collection present familiar films and filmmakers in a new and revealing light, while also shifting the focus to lesser known filmmakers and aspects of Polish cinema. The resulting volume moves discussion beyond the border of Polish national belonging. Contributors: Peter Hames, Darragh O'Donoghue, Helena Goscilo, Dorota Ostrowska, Charlotte Govaert, Eva Näripea, Izabela Kalinowska-Blackwood, Ewa Mazierska, Alison Smith, Lars Kristensen, Jonathan Owen, Michael Goddard, Robert Murphy, Kamila Kuc, Elzbieta Ostrowska. Ewa Mazierska is professor of film studies at the University of Central Lancashire. Michael Goddard is senior lecturer at the University of Salford.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-834-3
    Subjects: Film Studies, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Polish Cinema beyond Polish Borders
    (pp. 1-20)
    Ewa Mazierska and Michael Goddard

    The idea for this book originated in our observation that while there is a growing body of innovative work dealing with transnationality in world cinema,¹ studies devoted to this phenomenon tend to omit Eastern European cinemas, including Polish films, which is an area of special interest to the editors of this volume. For example, Elizabeth Ezra and Terry Rowden’sTransnational Cinemadoes not include even one chapter devoted to films or filmmakers from Eastern Europe.² They are also typically omitted from the studies of “world cinema.” Similarly, histories of Polish cinema, whether written by Polish film historians working in Poland,³...

  5. Part One: The International Reception of Polish Films

    • Chapter One West of the East: Polish and Eastern European Film in the United Kingdom
      (pp. 23-36)
      Peter Hames

      British insularity with respect to cultures originating on the European mainland scarcely needs comment. It is very rare for foreign-language films to receive coverage in even the most ambitious television arts programs or in the pages of weekly political reviews such as theNew Statesman. In 2008, according to a UK Film Council report, foreign films represented less than 4 percent of the total UK market. Of this, 2.3 percent of the market was devoted to European films, which was apparently three times the 2002 figure and the highest yet recorded. To be more specific, 527 films were released overall,...

    • Chapter Two The Shifting British Reception of Wajda’s Work from Man of Marble to Katyń
      (pp. 37-55)
      Darragh O’Donoghue

      The period in contemporary Polish history that began with the strikes at Gdañsk shipyard in August 1980, leading to the Solidarity movement, and ending with the imposition of martial law on December 13, 1981, dominated the Western media at the time. It also coincided with Andrzej Wajda’s greatest visibility as a filmmaker in the United Kingdom. From April 1981 to January 1982 he was rarely off London screens with his two most outspoken works,Rough Treatment(Bez znieczulenia, 1978) andMan of Iron(Człowiek z żelaza, 1981), together with revivals of the War Trilogy—A Generation(Pokolenie, 1955),Kanal(1957),...

    • Chapter Three Affluent Viewers as Global Provincials: The American Reception of Polish Cinema
      (pp. 56-76)
      Helena Goscilo

      It is a truism of film criticism that political and financial considerations affect the reception of any national cinema abroad. Accordingly, whatever interest people in the United States evinced in Soviet and Eastern European films during the Cold War era—prompted chiefly by the desire to gauge the fluctuating attitudes toward the West of “the other superpower” and the Soviet-controlled Eastern bloc—evaporated after the demise of the Soviet Union. For Americans, the fascination and challenge of the Soviet empire died upon the latter’s disintegration into a mélange of disparate, embattled states and its satellites’ consequent independence. Indeed, America’s subsequent...

    • Chapter Four Polish Films at the Venice and Cannes Film Festivals: The 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s
      (pp. 77-94)
      Dorota Ostrowska

      Throughout its postwar history Polish cinema enjoyed a strong presence at various international film festivals on both sides of the Iron Curtain—not only Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Locarno, and San Sebastian, but also Moscow and Karlovy Vary. The careers of individual Polish directors, such as Aleksander Ford, Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Andrzej Munk, Wojciech Has, Agnieszka Holland, and Krzysztof Kieślowski, among others, were consolidated with the help of these film festivals. However, the two important moments in this period of of Polish cinema history, the Polish school in the 1950s and the Cinema of Moral Concern in the 1970s, did...

    • Chapter Five How Polish Is Polish? Silver City and the National Identity of Documentary Film
      (pp. 95-112)
      Charlotte Govaert

      For political or economic reasons, it may be useful to categorize a group of films as Polish, but ontologically the concept of a national cinema is problematic. For what constitutes a film’s identity? Is a film Polish if the director or producer is of Polish nationality, if it is produced in Poland with Polish money or personnel, if it deals with a Polish subject, or displays a certain degree of Polishness? Or may a film be described as Polish only if the audience perceives it as such?

      In 2008 I producedSilver City, a documentary film that looks at Polish...

  6. Part Two: Polish International Coproductions and Presence in Foreign Films

    • Chapter Six Postcolonial Heterotopias: A Paracinematic Reading of Marek Piestrak’s Estonian Coproductions
      (pp. 115-133)
      Eva Näripea

      Although Polish film culture in general was held in high esteem in Soviet Estonia, and many Estonian directors admired the works and successes of their Polish colleagues with a tinge of jealousy, the tangible cinematic link between the two countries, both belonging to the Soviet sphere of influence, was limited. The only Polish-Estonian coproductions were those directed by Marek Piestrak, who made three films in collaboration with Estonian filmmakers: a science fiction film,The Test of Pilot Pirx(Test pilota Pirxa/Navigaator Pirx, 1978);¹ a fantasy adventure,Curse of Snakes Valley(Klątwa Doliny Węży/Madude oru needus, 1988);²...

    • Chapter Seven Poland-Russia: Coproductions, Collaborations, Exchanges
      (pp. 134-152)
      Izabela Kalinowska

      In the period following the collapse of communism, when government sources for funding native film production throughout Eastern Europe shrank to very low levels, filmmakers throughout the region turned to international coproductions as the most viable option for securing their craft’s continued existence. In Poland some of the most established and promising film directors, such as Andrzej Wajda, Agnieszka Holland, and Krzysztof Kieślowski, found their producers in Western Europe. In the case of the latter two, the conditions of foreign coproductions impacted their works so significantly that the collaborations may be said to have amounted to fundamental turning points in...

    • Chapter Eight Train to Hollywood: Polish Actresses in Foreign Films
      (pp. 153-173)
      Ewa Mazierska

      Much has been written about Polish directors crossing borders, and several essays in this volume further attest to this phenomenon. A much less explored phenomenon is the presence of Polish actors and actresses in international cinema, the careers of the latter being the topic of this study. Yet, it is a significant aspect of Polish cinema; from Pola Negri to Alicja Bachleda-Curuś, the matter of Polish actresses in large numbers boarding trains to Budapest, Prague, Munich, and of course, Hollywood. Some of them reached their destination and stayed there for good; others returned after making one film, either directly to...

    • Chapter Nine Polish Performance in French Space: Jerzy Radziwiłowicz as a Transnational Actor
      (pp. 174-193)
      Alison Smith

      Jerzy Radziwiłowicz first came to French cinema in 1981, to star as an expatriate Polish film director in Jean-Luc Godard’sPassion(1982). He was thirty-one and thought of himself mainly as a stage actor, having been a regular member of the company at the Stary Theatre in Kraków, where he first encountered Andrzej Wajda. It was, of course, Wajda’s filmMan of Marble(Człowiek z marmuru), made in 1977, that brought Radziwiłowicz international fame, as well as changing his self-image as an actor, revealing, as he toldCahiers du cinéma, “a part of myself that I didn’t want to know:...

    • Chapter Ten Polish Actor-Directors Playing Russians: Skolimowski and Stuhr
      (pp. 194-212)
      Lars Kristensen

      The principle question of this chapter is: What messages are conveyed when Polish actors play Russian characters? The context of my ananlysis is the strained relationship between Poland and Russia that resulted from a centuries-long colonial relationship between these two countries, and was represented during the postwar period of People’s Poland in official discourses as friendship. While the partitions period was arguably quite different from what is usually understood as colonialism, the postwar period is seen as semicolonial, as the Soviet Union dominated Poland by both political and military power.¹

      I will discuss Polish actors playing Russian characters via two...

  7. Part Three: Émigré and Subversive Polish Directors

    • Chapter Eleven An Island Near the Left Bank: Walerian Borowczyk as a French Left Bank Filmmaker
      (pp. 215-235)
      Jonathan Owen

      In 1959 the notoriously elusive yet evidently fraternal Chris Marker lent both his name and his pet owl Anabase to Walerian Borowczyk’s short animationThe Astronauts(Les Astronautes), the Polish director’s first film after his emigration to France. According to Catherine Lupton, Marker cosigned the film as a “favor” to Borowczyk, who then lacked a permit to work in his adopted country.¹ Just as Marker providedThe Astronautswith one of the creatures particularly privileged in his own cinema, so, a few years later, did Borowczyk’s wife and favored female star Ligia Branice appear briefly in Marker’s celebrated “stills movie”...

    • Chapter Twelve Beyond Polish Moral Realism: The Subversive Cinema of Andrzej Żuławski
      (pp. 236-257)
      Michael Goddard

      When Andrzej Żuławski’s debut feature film,The Third Part of the Night(Trzecia część nocy, 1971) was released, it could only be received as a major scandal. Even in the relatively open and experimental context of “third generation” Polish cinema at the time, Żuławski’s film was an affront to the most “sacred” period of both Polish history and its cinematic representation—namely, the Polish experience of World War II. This was, of course, a preferred subject of Polish school filmmakers such as Andrzej Wajda and Andrzej Munk, whose representations of Polish martyrdom, whether romantically heroic or ironic, were no preparation...

    • Chapter Thirteen Polanski and Skolimowski in Swinging London
      (pp. 258-274)
      Robert Murphy

      Roman Polanski’sRepulsion(1965) and Jerzy Skolimowski’sDeep End(1971), very different though they are in style and subject matter, both set their stories in a London that is an odd combination of the familiar and the alien.¹ Both films explore the effect of a sexual revolution that has dredged up unexpected anxieties and dangers for young people entering into a world where—as Mick Jagger puts it inPerformance(1971), “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” One might expect Polanski and Skolimowski, refugees from the gray wastelands behind the Iron Curtain, to revel in the pleasures of colorful, liberated...

    • Chapter Fourteen The Elusive Trap of Freedom? Krzysztof Zanussi’s International Coproductions
      (pp. 275-288)
      Kamila Kuc

      Krzysztof Zanussi’s career spans four decades, with more than half of his films being made abroad, featuring reputable actors such as Scott Wilson, Robert Powell, Max von Sydow, Brigitte Fossey, Leslie Caron, and Valeria Golino. It was in the 1980s that Zanussi made the majority of his international coproductions, which on the whole have been badly received in Poland. It seems that the director’s frequent commissions abroad contributed to the loss of audiences in his native country.¹ Zanussi’s coproductions constitute a rather complex subject. There are at least two ways of looking at them: from the point of view of...

    • Chapter Fifteen Agnieszka Holland’s Transnational Nomadism
      (pp. 289-310)
      Elżbieta Ostrowska

      In the above epigraphs, Agnieszka Holland and Roman Polanski refer to their life and work outside of their native Poland. However, whereas Polanski calls himself a nomad, somebody who abandons the notion of a fixed home, Holland identifies herself as a homeless person, somebody deprived of a home. Their rhetoric is different, yet it is interesting that Polanski, the nomad, directedThe Tenant(Le Locataire, 1976), one of the most insightful portraits of exilic exclusion, whereas Holland, the homeless person, has not developed a significant interest in exilic narratives. Neither has she developed a consistent body of thematic concerns. Moreover,...

  8. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 311-318)
  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 319-322)
  10. Index
    (pp. 323-334)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 335-335)