Andrzej Zulawski  

Unique film-maker that explores passions, emotions and primal drives as they relate to various human activities, often involving the relationship between man and woman. His actors often represent concepts rather than naturally acting as people, and display unrestrained passions, using beautiful female actresses to channel their issues, mental tortures and passions with over-the-top emotional outbursts and physical abandon. Their behaviour, emotions and thoughts are all one, expressing wild passions using hysteria, panic, bestial emotions and neurotic wildness to express psychological and existential difficulties. The result is often melodrama with over-acting, but one that explores ideas. At times, this difficult and challenging combination somehow transcends the pretentious theatrics and evokes deeply moving experiences. Died in 2016.

Of Some Interest

Devil, The  
Set in the 18th Century during the Prussian army's invasion of Poland. Amidst the chaos, an idealist is released from prison by a strange and evil man, his idealism and symbolic beauty wanted by various madmen for different purposes, and he is given a nun as a symbolic companion for support. He is sent back home with constant pressure and manipulations, where he finds one tragedy and disaster after another. His father committed suicide, his mother is a whore, his sister is mad, his fiancée pregnant and betrothed to a traitorous friend, etc. There is talk of revolution but the ideals are warped, the people have constant depraved parties, and incest is afoot. The man, with his strange savior's goading, soon decides he has to clean house. Zulaswki gets his usual primal performances out of his female actresses. This is a tragedy, like a more insane and violent version of Hamlet, but drawing parallels to Polish history and government. Of course, you can't call your repressive government a devil without getting your film banned, so that is what happened.

Zulawski at his most restrained and mature and the movie benefits greatly from this. The theme is fidelity, duty and honor vs. happiness, passion, scandal and cheap drama. A woman marries but then realizes she isn't happy and falls in love with a younger photographer, resisting his passion, love and advances day after day. Her mother, who married out of duty, warns her of impending doom. The husband's brother is a bishop who has a scandalous affair, foregoing God and honor for happiness. The woman is a photographer who straddles the border between cheap porn and art, liking flowers for being unashamed in their colorful beauty. The husband doesn't believe her fidelity, preferring to believe in cheap drama. The acting is mostly normal for Zulawski with occasional over-the-top outbursts and ridiculous paparazzi violent sub-plots. Overlong and dense, but all these subplots are tied together wonderfully to provoke thought and feeling. Covers similar ground to "That Most Important Thing: Love".

A movie about a dysfunctional, crumbling marriage and the theme of irreplaceable individuality, and the imaginary personification of an ideal spouse. The psychological barriers, mechanisms and some events are seen symbolically in the form of bizarre personalities, extreme behaviour and actual physical manifestations of tentacled monsters, identical clones, exorcisms, abortions of faith and other strange phenomena. For example, the wife is cheating on the side but she also has a big secret that she keeps hidden - a wishful, idealistic representation of her husband that starts off as a formless creature, but as she has sex with this manifestation she slowly works on him to make him perfect. Gradually the clone becomes human but passionless. The over-the-top, emotionally raw, annoyingly unnatural acting by all the leads is a hurdle for audiences, but Zulawski pushes his actors to behave emotionally wild as if in some radical psychotherapy, conveying the raw emotions of the relationship and breakup, and although this sometimes works in his movies, here it comes off as theatrical, pretentious histrionics. Ironically, this is Zulawski's most popular movie but is probably his most bizarre annoying and difficult work.

Public Woman, The  
The theme is fake external performance vs real emotions. A woman is hired to act in a wild Dostoyevsky adaptation by a rabid, maniacal film-maker. When her performance proves lacking, he takes her under his wing and attempts to train and dominate her emotionally and sexually. The line between the film and reality starts to dissolve as the actors start to behave the same way off-screen. Soon she finds she has to perform a role as a girlfriend for a political revolutionary who got himself involved in some nonsensically violent sub-plot. All the while she visits a strange photographer for photo sessions where she strips nude, dances wildly to pop music and generally exposes her primal, naked self for commercialism. Or is she? As she changes, they all experience emotional break-downs. A somewhat interesting meta-Zulawski delivering a unique variation on his usual themes.

Silver Globe, The  
Imagine a strange, existentialist Tarkovsky sci-fi movie, filmed with the usual babbling histrionic and primal acting by Zulawski, with an endless stream of bizarre Jodorowsky-esque costumes, mysticism and dialogue, and all this presented in fragmented form because the film was shut down before it was completed. The result is as insane as it sounds. This 2.5 hour movie seems to tackle nothing less than civilization and humanity, tracking the progress of some astronauts colonizing another planet with visitors arriving to monitor their progress. At first, the film is like a fragmented film-diary, filming the deterioration of the first astronauts, their children growing up abnormally fast and cultivating a new primitive culture that worships the slowly aging originals. Throughout the film, all characters combine Zulawski's trademark primal acting with endless, pretentious and often impenetrable dialogue, rants and soliloquies, examples include "Ultimately, every reaction to physiology is the fascism of the soul" and this exchange between father and son: "What is Earth?", "Earth is what I feel for you". The film-document then presents a series of scenes and snippets as the new civilization develops, forming new tribes, rituals, very bizarre and constantly changing costumes, very violent behaviour culminating in crucifixions and grotesque impalements on 50-foot poles, new religions, and even strange offshoots of biology with bird-like creatures and other mutations or diseases, the characters moaning existentially and philosophically about what they have done or have learned, all of this giving the feeling that millennia are passing. The missing film fragments are narrated from the screenplay while footage of modern Poland is shown, demanding parallels to be drawn with our society. In short, a mostly impenetrable and tediously pretentious, but unique, atmospheric and sometimes interesting creation.

Szamanka (The Shaman)  
Something in between Last Tango in Paris and In the Realm of the Senses. If anyone can cinematically explore as well as evoke primal lusts and needs coupled with psychotic obsessions, it's Zulawski. An anthropology professor meets a strange girl in a railway station and instantly develops a primal connection with her through animalistic sex. At the same time, he finds a mummified Shaman and works obsessively to uncover its secrets, finding parallels with his new-found life of reckless wild passions and primal form of existence. They both abandon their boring girlfriend/boyfriend, develop obsessions, overwhelming wanton needs, until the expected deterioration, the discovery of attachment as vampiric psychosis, and the over-the-top bloody finale. Zulawski invokes another psychotic and unbelievably primal performance out of his beautiful main actress. The film also briefly touches on themes of convention vs. unbridled behaviour, spiritual love vs. physical indulgence, but overall, this is one to experience with the most basic instincts.

That Most Important Thing: Love  
A male photographer who works for a perverse old man with outrageous kinky fantasies meets an actress who is stuck in a loveless marriage and a career in exploitation and porn. Both are stuck in moral obligations, yearning to live and experience something beyond the submissive, accepting, passive, lifeless life. They are both surrounded by people who have lost their way, losers, perverts, eccentrics, and live in a life of artifice, where emotions are fake and forced, sex is meaningless and perverse, and passions are for Hollywood photographs, theater and meaningless objects. Her face, full of pain, catches his eye and they fall in love but are held back by circumstance and repulsive lifelessness. A thoughtful, deeply passionate romantic movie with the expected Zulawski trademarks (albeit restrained this time) of intellectualism, over-the-top acting and melodrama.

Third Part of the Night, The  
Zulawski's debut features several themes and styles explored in later works. The setting is WWII; the German invasion of Poland. A man witnesses his wife and child killed brutally and his mind takes him to strange places as he tries to continue his life. He meets a pregnant woman who looks just like his wife, he tries to join partisans and encounters death and brutal violence wherever he goes, and he partakes in the strange medical practice of developing typhus vaccines by feeding lice with one's own blood. The themes draw parallels between love that forces you to take risks, death-encounters that force you to live life, and bleeding in order to create vaccines, the movie using war, brutal killings, and details on lice feeding to force the protagonist into an emotional, wild and spiritual upheaval and a bizarre hallucinative ending.


Blue Note, The  
Zulawski's version of Lisztomania, exaggerating the romantic era of Chopin. The ailing Chopin, his lover, her seductive daughter who captures the heart of Chopin, and a slew of celebrity, artist guests stay at a country home. There is not much plot, and instead the movie focuses on a portrayal of the era as extravagantly romantic, and wildly passionate. All the celebrities act melodramatically, talking poetically, performing, swooning, moving with exaggerated flourishes and gestures, behaving childishly and selfishly with each other, etc. Even the professional pianist plays wildly on his piano with wild and crude raw emotion and sentimentalism. Circus performers and mysterious hooded figures move around the forests and the rooms while one of the guests builds look-alike puppets of all the guests and makes them perform theatrics. While I get the point that the romantics were wild and sentimental relative to other eras, this portrayal doesn't do much for me.

Zulawski's last movie is not one of his good ones unfortunately. He develops further his experimental form of movie-making where actors act as if they have been reduced to their unrestrained egos and ids, this time with much more stream-of-consciousness rambling and word-games, except the characters, story and themes are not interesting this time. It's about a couple of students that stay at a family-run inn, and one of them, a serious young aspiring writer who indulges in Shakespearean soliloquies and literary references, falls hard for the innkeeper's beautiful daughter. There is also a mystery of several dead animals found hanging on a string, and a handful of support characters including a socially over-active but impenetrable wife who literally freezes randomly when in company, her still-waters-run-deep husband who waxes poetic about a lot of things, a happy maid with a distracting deformed lip, and a fellow student who seems to be flamboyantly gay. Being a Zulawski movie, characters are explored by having them all act out their every whim and indulgent emotion, state their every passing thought and stream-of-consciousness babble, and their dialogue consists of highlights of emotional and narcissistic content rather than flowing intercourse. The themes are of obsession with superficial beauty, angelic interiors, the harsh reality of nature, secret emotions that erupt and result in assaults against nature, and lusts that turns into swarming insects.

Mad Love  
Zulawski does Euro-crime by way of Dostoyevsky and his usual ideas on love and primal emotions. A gang of wild criminals and bank-robbers led by the hyper-manic psychopath Micky, pick up Leon in a train who turns out to be an 'Idiot': a simple-minded man just out of a mental asylum. Micky travels to his girlfriend, snatching her back from her twisted family and a rival gang. Leon promptly falls in love with her as Micky goes to war with the Venin brothers. Interestingly, it's the men who act over-the-top here, each one a wild character with eccentricities, mood swings, bursts of violent rage, flamboyant festive behaviour and twisted acts of perversion. It's like the whole cast took cocaine. There is some exploration of love as it relates to madness, innocence and animalistic behaviour but the manic, crazy energy overpowers everything and wears out its audience a third of the way through.

My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days  
A man losing his memory meets a psychic woman who sees all, both suffering existentially from their reality-impairments and traumatic memories. The woman is hounded by a pack of vultures: prima-donna, perverse show-biz people who follow her psychic act on the stage hoping to latch on to her fame, and the man is hounded by people who want to be a part of his money-making computer invention. As the man's memory deteriorates, he talks endlessly to himself, finding word patterns and rhymes, exploring faint memories and trying to hang on to his love for this woman. We experience the movie disjointedly like he does, Zulawski thus wandering into Alain Resnais territory. Amidst the overly cryptic artsy dialog, there are strange meaningless sub-plots involving a nymphomaniac mother, a dwarf page with a ferret, a homosexual husband, etc. And all this is why, despite the promising poetic premise, this film drowns in its own artsy aimlessness that doesn't really go anywhere.

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