Kinoteka, with events across various venues in the city. There seem to be some real delights on offer here, with films spanning several genres and styles. It opens with a free screening up at the University of the documentary The Runaway, the remarkable story of an escape from Auschwitz, as told by the last surviving participant. The director Marek Pawlowski and producer Malgorzarta Walczak will both be present to discuss the film afterwards. There is a programme of animation exploring the dark and sinister worlds of the fantastic, with the kind of sepulchral atmosphere with which fairy tales seem to be wreathed in Eastern Europe. Tomek Baginski’s Cathedral looks beautiful in a grotesque HR Giger fashion, and Piotr Dumala captures the spirit of Kafka and Dostoevsky in his black and white and sepia worlds. The latter’s work looks like it might be somewhat reminiscent of Alexander Alexeieff’s animated interludes in Orson Welles film of The Trial, and his Freedom of the Leg has the feel of some of Odilon Redon’s charcoal works and lithographs (which always seem ripe for animation). There’s also a thematic resonance with Jan Svankmajer’s plasticene animation Dark/Lightness/Dark, in which limbs and body parts also take on a life of their own.
There are some examples of classic Polish cinema, including two by its most famous wayward son, Roman Polanski. Knife In the Water is the only feature length film he actually made in Poland, whilst Rosemary’s Baby takes Kafka-esue paranoia and his sense of relationships as shifting balances of power over to the New World. Both are being promoted as part of the Vibraphonic Festival on the strength of their Krzysztof Komeda scores and Rosemary’s Baby has an introduction by Professor Stephen Neale from the University. Komeda is surely the only film composer to have a pop band named after him (and a good one at that) - unless Hermann’s Hermits were really paying tribute to Bernard, of course. Mother Joan of the Angels is from the ‘new wave’ era of Eastern European cinema and anticpates Ken Russell’s The Devils in its depiction of mass possession in a 17th century nunnery. Much more restrained in style than Russell’s screamingly hysterical film, it nevertheless has contains images which live on in memory and in dreams, and has some stunning black and white compositions. I’d be surprised if Derek Jarman hadn’t seen the film and been influenced to some degree in his designs for Russell by the sets of Mother Joan. Jan Jakub Kolski’s Jasminum, by contrast, is set in a monastery, and looks like an intriguingly offbeat modern fairy tale based around the mysteries of intoxicating scents. There is also a film by another of Poland’s best known directors, Andrzej Wajda, his 1974 historical epic of industrial revolution set in Lodz, later the centre of the Polish film industry and home to its famous film school. Sexmission, from 1983, is a piece of role reversal science fiction in which two men find themselves in a female dominated future. The Aurum Encyclpaedia of Science Fiction Film finds itself at a loss as to how to define this one. Uncertain as to whether it is a veiled attack on totalitarian government and deceit, a feminist satire or a knockabout Carry On sex farce, it concludes that it is ‘a decidedly odd film’. Recommendation enough. Perhaps it is an example of cultural confusion granting an ambiguity which denies an easy reading – which may be all to the good. There are two modern films set against historical backdrops, The Reverse (the 50s) and Little Moscow (the 60s) both of which look good, and several other films from recent years which have probably never received a screening in cinemas in this country.
In addition, there is an exhibition of Polish film posters. These are always fantastic, and stand out in the books of posters I’ve seen for there striking originality and graphic imagination. They often take a non-literal approach to interpreting the film and sometimes avoid using images from it altogether (the poster for Knife in the Water, with its human ‘fishes’ being a striking example). The poster for Planet of the Apes is also particularly memorable, and looks like something Max Ernst might have come up with. Indeed, surrealism is an influence behind many of these poster images.
The whole thing is part of the Kinoteka On Tour package put together Polish Cultural Institute in London, and I’m glad such a rich cinematic programme has reached this far corner of the country. We often seem to be a little off the cultural map here in Exeter (and beyond), as if there is some invisible barrier which rebuffs artist’s tours (filmic, musical or otherwise) from reaching beyond Bristol. So let’s hope it’s a big success (and help make it so) and encourages more such events in the future.