Polish Films for Rainy Summer Days
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Rainy Summer Days, A cinema on the beach during the Sopot Film Festival, photo: Rafał Malko / AG, sopot-film-festival-ag.jpg
If you think Poles are good at concocting philosophical studies of the human psyche, you will be surprised at the ease with which they transform politically tainted social circumstances into layered satires. Here is Culture.pl's selection of related films to brighten up those rainy summer days.
The 'golden child' of Polish Cinema, Juliusz Machulski, is most notable for his comedies ridiculing life in communist-ruled Poland in the 1970s and '80s. Kingsize is the socialist-era satire par excellence – and provoked much irritation for communist police when graffiti slogans from the film appeared on buildings in Polish cities.
Kingsize is a fantasy comedy – an allegory contrasting two imaginary worlds, one made up of dwarves and the other inhabited by people of normal stature. While the dwarves scheme to get ahead in the meagre environment of Drawerland, or Szuflandia, the Kingsize people magically move from one dimension to the next and live in a free, rich and fun country.
Classic Polish Films on YouTube
Despite being significantly cut by the Soviet censors, this science-fiction comedy Sexmission was one of the most popular pictures shown in the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s. The protagonists, Max and Albert, agree to participate in a dangerous experiment in which they undergo hibernation. When they wake up in 2044, they learn that a nuclear war has killed the entire male population – and they are likely the last two surviving men on the face of the Earth.
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The classic Polish heist movie Vabank is set in the 1930s. Renowned jewel thief Henryk Kwinto (played by the director's father, Jan Machulski) gets out of prison and plans to pull off one last heist to get revenge on the former accomplice who framed him. The once-trusted associate is now a bank president. Quirky characters and offbeat humour, it's a social satire and comedy with retro style.
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‘Hydrozagadka’ by Andrzej Kondratiuk (1980)
While Andrzej Kondratiuk was known for his abstract humour, this parody of a Western superhero film mocks the absurdity of the Polish reality under Soviet domination. Iconic for many viewers, Hydrozagadka (Water Puzzle) depicts a mysterious water shortage in Warsaw. The puzzle of the title can only by unraveled by Ace, a hero stylised on Superman comics, who saves the capital from the clutches of the Maharaja, who it turns out is stealing from the city's pipes.
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‘Day of the Wacko’ by Marek Koterski (2002)
A social comedy with 'humor ranging from sublime to nutty', Time Out London calls Marek Koterski's Day of the Wacko a 'dolefully absurdist Polish comedy of dejection and rejection'. Suffering from imaginary health problems and feeling empathy for the hunger and poverty in the world, Adam Miauczyński reduces his everyday life to a series of repetitive tasks. Divorced at 44, pedantic and frustrated, this literature professor with obsessive-compulsive behaviour makes Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets 'look positively serene', as Variety’s Eddy Cockrell comments.
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‘The Cruise’ by Marek Piwowski (1970)
A passenger without a ticket boards a tourist ship cruising the River Wisła. The captain mistakes him for a cultural education instructor, and the stowaway gladly accepts the role. First he convenes a meeting to elect a cruise council, then involves passengers in on-board competitions, games and fun. The 'instructor' wins a team of devoted allies and gets increasingly carried away by his leadership.
As the subsequent events – including captain's day, a masquerade ball, an intelligence quiz, collective physical exercises and a 'guess who slapped your backside' game – become increasingly silly and meaningless, the passengers' enthusiasm rises. A cult movie of the first rank, Marek Piwowski's The Cruise is based on improvised short scenes.
The Cruise by Marek Piwowski – Image Gallery
‘The Wedding’ by Wojciech Smarzowski (2004)
'If no one gets thrashed, a wedding's a failure,' says the priest in The Wedding, in which the pregnant daughter of a rich villager is married her off to a man who agrees to take her for his wife in exchange for a modern sports car. The father ends up bribing a notary, a policeman and even the priest. Wojciech Smarzowski draws a caricature of Polish society and all its national sins as things get even more complicated.
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day of the wacko
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Written by Marta Jazowska, based on a concept by BS, 8 Jul 2013, updated by AZ, Jul 2018