12 March, 2012

The Enfant Terrible Of Polish Cinema

Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill in POSSESSION

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Dubbed the enfant terrible of Polish cinema, Andrzej Zulawski is one of the most controversial and polarizing filmmakers in the world. His work is not as well known in the United States as that of Kieslowski, Polanski, Holland and other Polish auteurs. Well, the BAMcinĂ©matek, the arthouse treasure at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City's coolest borough, is currently presenting the first US retrospective of the uncompromising auteur’s complete work.

Zulawski worked both in his native Poland and in France, where he lived for many years while encountering resistance from the Polish authorities to make his unique and underlying subversive cinema. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Polish-born filmmaker became a box office phenomenon in France with a series of sexually erotic and morally provocative films that features some of the biggest stars of French cinema. The films were barely seen outside of Europe, although they did develop a cult following in the United States because of their explicit nudity and eroticism.

In the retrospective program, these qualities are revealed in such films as L'IMPORTANT C'EST D'AIMER (1975), a film that earned actress Romy Schneider as Cesar award as Best Actress for her role as a soft-core porn actress; POSSESSION (1981), one of the early hits for iconic French actress Isabelle Adjani, who won the Cannes Film Festival award for Best Actress for her portrait of a married woman with a love on the side; and LA FEMME PUBLIQUE (1984) with Valerie Kaprisky starring as an actress involved in a sado-masochistic relationship with her manipulative director.

The series includes two rare, early shorts Zulawski directed for Polish television (PAVONCELLO and THE SONG OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE), along with a new 35mm print of his first feature, THE THIRD PART OF THE NIGHT. The series, which runs through March 20 and will tour the United States afterwards, is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and the Cinefamily. Additional support comes from the Polish Film Institute, The Polish Film Archive, and Cultural Services of the French Embassy.

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