Friday, September 2, 2011

State of nation in 'Transitions: Recent Polish Cinema'

Marcin (Filip Garbacz) and Artur (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz) do the unthinkable in "Mother Teresa of Cats." Photos courtesy of Film Society of Lincoln Center.

HOMICIDAL dysfunction, teenage prostitution, teen angst, labor pains and pornography addiction are just some of the problems plaguing contemporary Poland.

The various societal ills are explored in a series of eight films by Polish directors under the rubric, “Transitions: Recent Polish Cinema.”

“Transitions: Recent Polish Cinema,” born of a collaboration of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Polish Cultural Institute in New York and the Polish Film Institute in Warsaw, runs from 9-15 Sept. at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center.

The series also includes a program of mostly prize-winning seven shorts, as well as two post-screening Q&As with the director, and a two-film salute to Zbigniew Cybulski aka the Polish James Dean.

Young marrieds (Marta Nieradkiewicz and Wojciech Niemczyk) get in over their head when they do a porn film for quick cash in "Out of Love" ("Z miłości," 2011).

One of the most disturbing films in “Transitions: Recent Polish Cinema” is “Mall Girls” (“Galerianki,” 2009). Director Katarzyna Roslaniec drew on real-life interviews to create a fictional account of teenage prostitution. Once gripped by communism, Poland is now under the spell of consumerism. One manifestation is the alarming phenomenon of mostly 14- to 16-year-old girls who hang out at malls where they offer sexual favors in mall restrooms and mall parking lots in exchange for swag i.e, mobile phones, bling, the latest “It” designer item of the moment, etc. (

Equally disturbing is “Mother Teresa of Cats” (“Matka Teresa od kotów,” 2009) from first-time director Pawel Sala. Told in flashbacks, it is based on real-life events that occurred in Warsaw in the ’90s. The country was stunned when brothers Artur (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz) and Marcin (Filip Garbacz) inexplicably killed their mother Teresa (Ewa Skibinska). Perhaps clues may lie in the complicated lives of this family, which includes an autistic daughter, troubled Iraq War veteran father and many and sundry cats. (

Jan Jakub Kolski's "Venice" ("Wenecja," 2010) tells the story of a family that recreates the city of the title in their basement as an escape from the horrors of World War II.

Virtually all of the films in “Transitions: Recent Polish Cinema” suggest that Poland is a country in a collective emotional depression. Offering a ray of sunshine, though, is the award-winning “Erratum” (2010). In Marek Lechki’s debut, Michal (Tomasz Kot) journeys to the port city, Szczecin – his birthplace – for business. What is supposed to be a one-off turns into several days. During his stay, Michal has encounters that remind him why he left. But the visit also has an opportunity for catharsis, including repairing busted relationships. (

In the shorts program, Agata Prętka’s “Talk to Him” (“Porozmawiaj z nim,” 2010) won the Grand Prix for the best student film at the Polish National Festival of Original Animated Films. The seven-minute film explores the omnipresence of letters and numbers in our lives. They are at home, work, billboards, computers, etc. While letters and numbers can help us keep on plan, “Talk to Him” warns that they also have the power to subvert.

Zbigniew Cybulski was famous for his iconoclastic roles as well as large-framed sunglasses and leather jackets. He got his start on the stage but his greatest success came in films. “Transitions: Recent Polish Cinema” pays homage to his career with the digitally restored “Goodbye Until Tomorrow” (“Do widzenia do jutra,” 1960) and “Night Train” (“Pociag,” 1959).

Teenage girls prostitute themselves for Prada in "Mall Girls."

The city of Gdansk, Poland never looked so good as it does in “Goodbye Until Tomorrow.” In this bit of froth, ZC’s handsome Jacek is an actor who meets Marguerite on the streets of Gdansk and proceeds to fall in love with the high-maintenance French beauty.

ZC died about 10 months shy of his 40th birthday in a train accident. In an interesting bit of trivia, he was en route to a film set and an actor friend, Marlene Dietrich, was also a passenger on that train. The actor is the third lead in “Night Train,” a pulse-pounding Hitchcockian thriller that revolves around a pair of mysterious passengers, a jilted lover (ZC) and a murder probe aboard a train en route to the Baltic seaside.

Visit to learn more about “Transitions: Recent Polish Cinema,” including screening schedule, tickets and venue information.

'A Dangerous Method' and Other Activity in Film Festivaldom

Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender in "A Dangerous Method." Photo from HanWay Films.

DOINGS abound on the film festival circuit whether festivals are underway, upcoming are calling for submissions.

The 68th Venice International Film Festival opened Wednesday (until 10 Sept.). On the schedule today and making its world premiere is “A Dangerous Method,” David Cronenberg’s psychological drama based on actual events. Psychiatrist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), his mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and two troubled patients, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) and Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel), alternately explore sensuality, sexuality, neuroses and mild S&M — all pointing toward what will become pyschoanalysis. (;

Opening Thursday with “From the Sky Down” is the 36th Toronto International Film Festival. In the documentary – the first to open the festival – director David Guggenheim reflects on the career of U2 through the prism of its breakthrough album, “Achtung Baby,” and ponders what has kept the Irish quartet from self-destructing like so many other rock bands. ( … The New York Film Festival is set from 30 Sept.- 16 October. ( … A spotlight shines on the 2011 Annual International Black Film Festival in early October (5-9). … In November, starting Thanksgiving Day weekend (25 Nov.-13 Dec.) is the 2011 African Diaspora International Film Festival. (http://

Other festivals are in or near the “call for submissions” stage. The dates for the 65th Festival de Cannes are 16-27 May 2012, but submissions are not yet being accepted. ( … Meanwhile, the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, is 19-29 Jan. The official submission deadline is today for both U.S. and international short films, as well as domestic/international feature films and documentaries. The late submission deadline for shorts is 23 Sept. For features and documentaries it is 26 Sept.

A panel discussion after the screening of "Do Dooni Chaar," which opened the Eleventh Annual New York Indian Film Festival. Photo by Michael Toolan.

Two New York-based festivals are also calling for submissions. The dates for the Eleventh Annual Tribeca Film Festival are 18–29 April 2012. The submissions window opens on 19 Sept. The deadline for early submissions of U.S./international film features and shorts is 28 Oct. Official deadline for these works is 2 Dec. The late deadline for features only is 11 Jan. 2012. The deadline for submissions to the 2012 Tribeca Film Institute programs is 10 Oct. Beginning on 19 Sept. all relevant forms and eligibility information can be accessed at

The Twelfth Annual New York Indian Film Festival arrives 23-27, May 2012. The deadlines for all submissions are as follows: Early Bird, 15 Oct.; Regular, 30 Dec.; Late, 10 Feb., and WAB Extended, 20 Feb. (

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