Polish Cinema Classics – Review

by Peter D. Marshall

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This latest collection of key Polish films come from a decade that began with a relaxation of censorship and ended with the brutal clampdown that accompanied the suppression of Solidarity, the independent, non-governmental trade union, in a Gda?sk shipyard and the introduction of martial law in 1981. Each is accompanied by a booklet to put them in their historical context, and all three attack from different angles the communist regime in a period represented by what came to be called “the cinema of moral anxiety”.

Now widely regarded as Poland’s first cult movie, Marek Piwowski’s The Cruise (1970) is a broad satire on the absurdity of the whole communist system. It’s set on a pleasure steamer chugging down the Vistula and is clearly inspired by Gogol’s 1836 comedy The Government Inspector. In the play the mayor of a provincial town mistakes a dim-witted clerk for a senior official from St Petersburg and treats him like visiting royalty, thus exposing the township’s corruption and hypocrisy.

In The Cruise the steamer’s captain believes an insignificant stowaway to be a senior Communist party inspector on an investigative mission, and the intruder is encouraged to lead the passengers and crew in a series of ridiculous games that expose the craven conformity of the authoritarian regime. Performed by a mainly non-professional cast, the film is of considerable historical interest, but it neither touches the universal comic depths of Gogol’s play nor has the slapstick energy needed to seize a western audience.

Read the rest of this article from The Guardian.

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