Monthly Archives: February 2014

Jack Strong by Wladyslaw Pasikowski (2014)

Ryszard Kuklinski could be perceived as a national hero or as a traitor. This ambiguity is only mentioned and in Pasikowski’s film, Kuklinski is presented rather as a positive character.
The story told depicts hard moral and ethical dilemmas of one man who became an ally to the US during the 1970’s and 1980’s opposing to the Soviet ruling inside communist Poland.
Being a higly regarded official of the Polish army, he has access to top secret documentation which at one point hints at the Soviets aiming at the breakout of World War III via a realistically planned invasion on Poland. It is at that point that he decides to get in touch with the American embassy to help his country he knows to be gravely endangered.
It is a fascinating story and being based on true events, gives the thrills of serious historical issues that could have ended in a number of ways. But luckily (for Poland and perhaps the whole contemporary world) it ended up just fine. Supposedly because and thanks to the Seagull operation with Jack Strong as the source. 1989 saw the end of the Cold War and in 1997 Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) by Peter Jackson

Smaug the Dragon has been my favourite character of childhood. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” my favourite childhood book, that I’d read over and over again.

Later in my teens, I quite enjoyed the gloomy trilogy combined into “The Lord of the Rings”.
When Peter Jackson took off with the trilogy, I was devastated by how much was removed out of the original rich story. But well, this was a must to cut the film down to a digesteable length.

However, what was done to “The Hobbit” is unacceptable. There are *added* stories, characters and elements to make three films out of one short(ish) book!
Other than that – I was disappointed by Smaug. In the book that I remember, he is smart, witty, and converses intelligently. Here he is a selfish monster. I only like about him the eye that is shown in the last scene of the first part of The Hobbit trilogy.
A disappointment.
Obviously there is the always great Ian McKellen as Gandalf, but all in all, I want my 3 hours back Mr Jackson!

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The Wolf of Wall Street by Martin Scorsese (2013)

Based on a true story which makes this film even more incredible than it already sounds.
Inevitably it has to be juxtaposed with last year’s “The Great Gatsby” starring Leonardo DiCaprio in a similar role.
The level of acting proficiency seems to be an amalgamate of many previous roles of DiCaprio’s – including especially “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” in one unforgettable episode. He is great throughout. If he doesn’t get an Oscar this year it would be a large disappointment – one more time!
What deserves a special mention here is a brilliant episode of Matthew McConaughey, who within only a few minutes of presence onscreen should onehandedly be given an Oscar for Supporting Actor.
Fantastic music score (including e.g. the classic The Surrey with the Fringe on Top), great coherent story, bold main character as well as the supporting team of background antagonists (not one character is truly a protagonist). Amazing self-ironic Jean Dujardin as Swiss banker (btw a great play on stereotypes).
It is a fascinating story and a very good film.

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La Vénus à la fourrure (Venus in Fur) by Roman Polanski (2013) #WFF2013

Emmanuelle Seigner et Mathieu Amalric in a claustrophobic drama set on stage of a seemingly abandoned theatre somewhere in Paris.
Amalric takes on the role of Polanski himself – just like Owen Wilson does in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”.
Emmanuelle Seigner is herself. Obviously the above two statements are probably oversimplifications but this is definitely how the film feels.
Emmanuelle Seigner plays an actress (sic) and Mathieu Amalric a stage director (yeah) during a dangerous casting taking abrupt turns as the game of power unveils. What begins as typical male dominated situation ends up in total submission to the weaker sex.
It is a close study of two characters confined in an enclosed space. Not bad. But not much exceptional either.

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Filed under 2013 cinema releases, film reviews, Warsaw Film Festival 2013