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Rare classic films to showcase Polish cinema of the 60s

When French new wave cinema was about to blossom in the 1960s, cinema in Poland, which was liberated from the Nazis and Stalin's ruling, had to start from scratch. Film masters Andrzej Wajda, Roman Polanski and other leading directors formed the Polish school, focusing on the once taboo subject matters, uncovering the buried tragic history, exposing reality of life and people's dreams in search of freedom.

"Polish New Wave Cinema 1960s" will showcase 19 award-winning Polish films and classics, which have been rarely shown in Hong Kong, at the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive, the Lecture Halls of the Hong Kong Science Museum and Hong Kong Space Museum from January 9 to February 15, 2009.

The films are Wajda's masterpieces "Canal", "Ashes and Diamonds" and "Everything for Sale"; Polanski's "Knife in the Water", "Repulsion", "Cul-de-Sac", "Mammals" and "Two Men and a Wardrobe"; Andrzej Munk's "Passenger"; Jerzy Skolimowski's "Hands Up!", "Identification Marks: None", "Walkover" and "Barrier"; Krzysztof Zanussi's "The Structure of Crystal", "Family Life", "Camouflage"; Jerzy Kawalerowicz's "Mother Joan of the Angels" and "Pharaoh" as well as Walerian Borowczyk's "Story of Sin".

Presented by the Film Programmes Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and curated by Mr Law Wai-ming, the "Polish New Wave Cinema 1960s" is the first programme of the "Repertory Cinema 2009" series.

To tie in with the programme, a seminar titled "Polish New Wave Cinema 1960s" to be conducted in Cantonese is scheduled at 5.15pm on February 1 at the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Science Museum.

A survivor of the concentration camps, most of Wajda's works are associated with war and the Polish national spirit. He made his first feature film in 1954 in his war trilogy: "A Generation" (1954), "Canal" (1957) and "Ashes and Diamonds" (1958). The trilogy established him as an important figure in the Polish film school. Apart from introducing the Polish films to the world, he was given an Honorary Award at the Academy Awards in 2000.

"Canal" was not to glorify valiant fighters', but to tell the imminent failure of the Warsaw uprising. One of Wadja's most important early works, "Ashes and Diamonds", is a flawless pairing of Wajda and Zbigniew Cybulski who was referred to as Poland's James Dean. "Everything for Sale" (1969) was dedicated to the memory of Cybulski who died in a car accident. Its multi-layered narrative and film-within-a-film style has blended the fiction with authentic memories.

"The Fearless Vampire Killers", "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" had made Roman Polanski known in international cinema. "The Pianist" even won him the Best Director at the Academy Awards and the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. Yet, his early works in Poland already showed the thrilling elements.

With most of the scenes set with three people in a boat, and the tension slowly tightened, Polanski's debut feature film "Knife in the Water" (1962) showed his signature signs: simple characters with piercing depiction of the dark psyche of human nature, shrouded in a claustrophobic cloud of suspense. The film not only introduced the Polish cinema to the world, but also won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1962.

Starring French actress Catherine Deneuve, Polanski applied many novelties in the thriller "Repulsion" (1965) to show the change of her psychological state. These thrilling elements have become Polanski's favourite devices and influenced many filmmakers. The film won the Silver Bear Extraordinary Jury Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1965.

What will happen if people are trapped in a remote castle? Polanski reflected the dignity of life and exposed the true hideous selves in "Cul-de-Sac" (1966). The film won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1966. His short film "Two Men and a Wardrobe" (1958) is filled with absurdity. In "Mammals" (1962), two men break into fights for the seat of sledge. The film's music score was made by Polanski's long-time collaborator Krzysztof Komeda.

The talented Andrzej Munk, who was awarded at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in Czechoslovakia, died in a car accident before completing the film "Passenger" (1963). His assistant Witold Lesiewicz compiled the footage and photos to let audiences get a glimpse of this unfinished piece. The film won the International Critic's Prize by the FIPRESCI at the Cannes Film Festival and the Italian Film Critics Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1964.

Jerzy Skolimowski's films focus on social problems faced by young people but depict in an intimate way. Filling with autographical element, his first film "Identification Marks: None" (1964) describes a disgruntled youth, who needs to decide whether to join the army or study. Skolimowski continues to play that youngster in "Walkover" (1965), which is themed on boxing match.

His early acclaimed "Barrier" (1966) was a film about two generations who have different feelings about the war. In notable "Hands Up!" (1967), which was banned for 14 years, he revealed people's frustration with life under Soviet control.

Krzysztof Zanussi wrote and directed all his films. His first feature film "The Structure of Crystal" (1969) showed how intellectuals could make a difference through different attitudes towards life, romance and science. Through "Family Life" (1971), he suggested that the audience should work to improve their lives and not to indulge in unrealistic fantasies. Both films were recognised with several international awards. The sarcastic comedy "Camouflage" (1977) used contradiction between academics of two generations to mock the corrupt academic world.

Not to be missed are Walerian Borowczyk's daring and erotic film "Story of Sin" (1975), Jerzy Kawalerowicz's anti-dogma film "Mother Joan of the Angels" (1961) and "Pharaoh" (1966) which is full of literary characteristics of European filmmakers.

"Story of Sin" has been classified as Category III and only ticket holders who are aged 18 and above will be admitted. Apart from the silent films, others are either in English or in Polish with English subtitles.

Tickets priced at $50 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients.

For programme information and ticket discount details, call 2734 2900 or visit Reservations can be made by phone on 2734 9009 or on the internet at

A film still from Roman Polanski's Repulsion 1965.
A film still from Roman Polanski's Repulsion 1965.

Source: GovHK (