But all is not gulags and breadlines in Warsaw as a liberal immigration policy with Vietnam and a visionary finance minister (Andrzej Chyra) have transformed Poland into an economic powerhouse, and the world's leading manufacturer of computers and cellphones. The Polish people now have a peaceful, orderly society and material comfort. They seem to have everything except the truth about their own past.
Now, twenty years later, as grizzled veteran police detective Anatol Janów ( Robert Wieckiewicz) investigates a recent rash of murders and criminal activity, he has the gnawing suspicion that there's more going on than meets the eye. With the help of a well-connected law student (Maciej Musial), the pair slowly discover a complex conspiracy that leads to dark and forbidden places, threatening the pillars of lies on which modern Polish society is built.
This eight part series is not always easy to follow, especially in the early going. It's so challenging that it's tempting to zone out and become hypnotized by the stark beauty of its gray, bleak images. But by episode six, when all the story threads begin to coalesce, it becomes a fairly simple plot with clearly defined motivations. Writer Joshua Long and a variety of directors (including Agnieszka Holland) do a remarkable job of building and maintaining suspense. I can't think of one moment in the show's nearly 8 hours that felt padded or flabby. If you're a fan of moody, austere police dramas, give 1983 a try. But don't @me if you become transfixed for the whole 8 hours.
Monday, January 7, 2019
Sunday, April 22, 2018
Elevator to the Gallows is a must watch for photography buffs, as legendary cameraman Henri Decaë (The 400 Blows, Le Cercle Rouge) delivers an inky monochrome that captures the steely yet romantic essence of the city of Paris. His daytime scenes have the diffused, overcast look that defines French cinema of the era, while his night exteriors glow with glistening wet streets and whimsical neon signs, hazy with mist. In an iconic sequence, Malle has leading lady Jeanne Moreau wander the streets in close up, her face pelted by a gentle rain signifying the tears of her broken heart.
Meanwhile, a pair of lovers flee the scene in a stolen convertible, the wind in their hair and the wide open boulevards of the city evoking a perfect metaphor of heady, youthful joy.
But the film’s most memorable takeaway is the astonishing, and astonishingly original, jazz score by Miles Davis. While most soundtracks seek to merely support the action on screen, Davis’s cool, bluesy trumpet seems to drive the narrative, acting as a sort of unseen Greek Chorus. While his music emanates from a lofty perch unsullied by the desperate souls below, Davis’s riffs create an emotional context for Malle’s ever expanding tableau of human weakness. And the Greek Chorus analogy is apt for Elevator to the Gallows is a classical tragedy in the truest sense. Its anxious arc pre-determined by the dark character flaws of its principals; their stained shadows withering under the ethereal light of Parisian winter.
Thursday, April 19, 2018
What distinguishes Red River from lesser westerns is its razor sharp writing - each scene of dialogue has a specific purpose and is crafted for a clear emotional effect - and the depth of its characterizations. Most notably Clift, whose soft-spoken, serene line readings stand in sharp contrast to his cold-eyed gunfighter persona. He and Wayne engage in a subtle completion not only for dominance of the cattle drive, but for the film itself. Clift and Wayne are aided by a rogue’s gallery of supporting actors as Walter Brennan, Noah Beery Jr. and John Ireland lend their famous faces to the proceedings. The film also boasts one of the most satisfying - and surprisingly feminist - endings in the history of cinema, as feisty frontier gal Tess (Joanna Dru), fed up with wanton displays of testosterone, sets the feuding parties straight with a sobering dose of good common sense.
However, the real star of Red River is director Howard Hawks, who took this low brow, dime store tale of laconic cowpokes and elevated it to the realm of high drama, appealing to the intellect as well as the heart. Hawks was an astonishingly versatile director, proving equally adept at everything from suspenseful thrillers like Scarface (1932) and The Big Sleep (1946) to wacky romantic comedies like Bringing Up Baby (1936) and His Girl Friday (1940). Hawks’ superb ability at cinematic storytelling was held in high esteem not only in Hollywood, but also in Europe, where his genre-defying filmography was an inspiration to the young filmmakers of the French new wave. In the iconic magazine Cahiers du Cinema in 1952, director Eric Rohmer wrote “If one does not love the films of Howard Hawks, one cannot love cinema.”
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
While this may sound like standard post-pubescent fare, Lady Bird achieves an emotional loft miles beyond the typical teen film. Ronan’s erratic romance with an anguished young man (brilliant Lucas Hedges, who seems to be everywhere this award season) resolves into a scene of abject weeping that not only turns the gender tables, it will leave all but the most hardened souls wrecked and quivering. Laurie Metcalf, who plays Ronan’s mom, delivers a gem of a performance that launches passive-aggressiveness to the stratosphere. Something magical has happened to Metcalf in recent years. She has figured out how to play comedic abstractions so thoroughly grounded in truth that they cease to be abstractions, and instead become the astonishingly real people we deal with every day. Check out her extraordinary work in the HBO series Getting On (2015) for further confirmation.
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Saturday, November 11, 2017
If you're like me, you only have vague recollections of 1980's Gdansk Shipyard strike, and even vaguer notions of what it acco...
Celebrated at Cannes, banned in Boise and breathlessly hyped in the rest of civilization, Blue is the Warmest Color is ultimatel...
Chilaquiles is sort of like Mexican lasagna, but with tortillas instead of noodles. Here’s my very simple version, which uses mainl...
Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird accomplishes something I previously thought impossible; it almost made me nostalgic for the darkly an...