Polish Film Festival in America

The 11th annual Polish Film Festival in America, produced by the Society for Arts, runs Friday, November 5, through Saturday, November 20. Screenings are at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence, and the Society for Arts, 1112 N. Milwaukee. Tickets are $7, $6 for members of the Society for Arts; passes are also available for $35 (six screenings) and $75 (fifteen screenings). Tickets to the opening-night screening on Friday, November 5, are $20. For more information call 773-486-9612. Commentary by Jack Helbig (JH) and Ted Shen (TS).


A Week in the Life of a Man

A moderately successful Warsaw lawyer slogs through the petty annoyances and ethical dilemmas of modern Poland in this troubling feature by Jerzy Stuhr. Once a student leader in the anticommunist movement, he’s been ground down by his dead-end job and the stagnant economy; over the course of seven days he struggles to buy a home, adopt a child, and make his dying mother comfortable, yet the more he fights the more the world overwhelms him. Like Kafka’s Joseph K., he’s a puppet of forces beyond his control, yet Stuhr’s superior storytelling skills elevate this slice of life into a fascinating existential drama. (JH) (Copernicus Center, 7:30)


With Fire and Sword

Jerzy Hoffman directed this three-hour adaptation of a historical novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz (Quo Vadis?), set in the mid-17th century when rival armies of Poles, Tartars, cossacks, and rebellious peasants battled for control of Poland and the Ukraine. The film is filled with brutality–impaling, hangings, torching of villages–yet none of it seems gratuitous; its epic battles recall the grand devastation of Kurosawa’s films, and Hoffman never loses sight of his characters, the warlords who fancy themselves errant knights but behave like cutthroats. In true Hollywood fashion he also finds time for a romance, between the most beautiful princess in Poland and the only warrior who looks good wearing mud and a three-day beard. But he’s much more interested in capturing the sweep of history and sketching its various players; his utterly absorbing epic succeeds as both historical document and ripping good adventure story. (JH) (Copernicus Center, 10:00 am)

The Third Miracle

Ed Harris stars as a disillusioned priest who’s assigned to investigate a series of miraculous incidents, a mission that forces him to explore his own faith. Agnieszka Holland (The Secret Garden, Europa Europa) directed; with Anne Heche and Armin Mueller-Stahl. Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, who composed the film’s score, will attend the screening. (Copernicus Center, 6:00)

Father’s Law

Actor Marek Kondrat makes his directorial debut with this drama of a father who takes the law into his own hands after the men who raped his daughter go unpunished. To be shown without subtitles. (Copernicus Center, 8:30)

You Must Live

A father, worried by the disappearance of his addict son, enlists the boy’s ex-girlfriend in his search and plunges into the drug underworld. Konrad Szolajski, director of this 1997 feature, will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 10:15)


Upsidedown Mountain

A giant and various spirits try to free children from a fortress on the title mountain. Leszek Galysz directed this animated feature. (Copernicus Center, 2:00)

Operation “Goat”

International tensions escalate after a scientific accident transfers the mind of a female KGB agent into the body of a Polish male scientist, and vice versa. To be shown without subtitles. Director Konrad Szolajski will attend the screening. (Copernicus Center, 3:30)

A Week in the Life of a Man

See listing for Friday, November 5. (Copernicus Center, 6:00)

Like a Drug

Barbara Sass directed this melodrama about a young poet with a heart condition who agonizes over the meaning of life. Anna (Magdalena Cielecka, looking sultry and dazed) writes impulsive verse, muses over metaphysics, talks to an imaginary girl who might be her conscience, and beds down with a succession of men after her husband commits suicide. Sass sets the story amid the political tensions of the early 80s, casting Anna as a new kind of Polish woman: independent, assertive, sexually adventurous, yet emotionally vulnerable. But despite the feminist posturing and intellectual veneer, this is really an old-fashioned “women’s picture.” (TS) Sass will attend the screening. (Copernicus Center, 8:00)


Films by Pawel Lozinski

Pawel Lozinski’s documentaries are not for the faint of heart; both Sisters and Such a Story focus on elderly working-class people who were promised the world by Poland’s communist regime and now find themselves tossed aside under capitalism. Sisters profiles a pair of elderly siblings who bicker over events that happened years ago, when they were both young and had bright futures. In Such a Story Lozinski trains his pitiless camera on Wiesio, a fat, foulmouthed retired truck driver; ruined by drink and cigarettes, dying of some unnamed disease, he roots through the garbage for tossed-out treasure–old flashlights, discarded carpets, a leather jacket with a large hole in the collar. Lozinski strips his subjects bare, revealing them warts and all; though hard to watch, his relentless portraits of life at the bottom can be liberating in the same way that Beckett’s darkest plays generate light. (JH) On the same program: Lozinski’s Place of Birth (1992), about a Polish Jew who escaped the Holocaust and emigrated to the U.S. but whose unsettled past compels him to return home a half century later. Lozinski will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 7:00)



Maciej Dutkiewicz directed this comedy about a young man (Maciej Stuhr) whose plan for vengeance is complicated by a beautiful woman. (Copernicus Center, 7:00)

My Dear Angelica

Stanislaw Kuznik wrote and directed this suspense film about a young soldier who learns that his girlfriend has been forced into a life of prostitution during a trip to Germany and is hiding from gangsters after having witnessed a murder. To be shown without subtitles. (Copernicus Center, 9:00)


Operation “Goat”

See listing for Sunday, November 7. Director Konrad Szolajski will attend the screening. (Copernicus Center, 7:00)

About Those Who Stole Nothing

A cop and a reporter try to solve a mystery amid the skulduggery of a small town. Lukasz Wylezalek directed; to be shown without subtitles. (Copernicus Center, 9:00)


My Dear Angelica

See listing for Tuesday, November 9. (Copernicus Center, 7:00)

Operation Simoom

A retired secret agent tries to free his son from an Iraqi prison in this action film directed by Wladyslaw Pasikowski. (Copernicus Center, 9:00)