Thursday, September 21, 2023

Black on White

Schwarz auf Weiss; comedy, Germany, 1943; D: E.W. Emo, S: Hans Moser, Elfriede Datzig, Hans Holt, Paul Hörbiger, Annie Rosar

In order for his teenage daughter Nelly not to flunk class for a third time, her father Eduard, a pastry chef, baits scholars with cakes to give Nelly private instructions in math and latin. Eduard is furious when a chimney sweep, Heinz, moves nearby, fearing that the soot will make his pastry dirty. Since Eduard only knows Heinz when he is dirty, a clean Heinz in a suit pretends he is a scholar to give Nelly private instructions, because he is in love with her. Due to a misunderstanding, Eduard thinks that Nelly's school teacher Klaus wants to marry her. When Klaus explains he has no such intention, Eduard quickly sums up Heinz at the engagement dinner, and thus Nelly is engaged.

One of Hans Moser's most famous films, "Black on White" is a light comedy where the comedian doesn't quite manage to rise to the occasion: he is rather acting happily more than actually being funny. The main problem is that the screenplay wasn't that well written nor rich with jokes, and thus Moser carries the entire film by trying to improvise jokes, giving it more effort than was his duty. There are some amusing situations here, such as when the main protagonist Eduard, a pastry chef, is furious that his neighbor is a chimney sweep, fearing the soot will besmirch his cakes. Eduard exaggerates by showing everyone a cake with a dark spot on it, and even goes to the manager, showing his daughter's dress in a foil with a dark patch, as evidence of the chimney sweep's dirt. In another, Eduard brags how the baited one private instructor with streuselschnitte and the other with a cake However, these are not enough to justify the movie, since everything feels thin. The love story between Nelly and the chimney sweep is neat and sweet, yet, just as it is the case with the jokes, these moments are today more convinceing with their charm than with their inspiration and skill.

Grade:++

Monday, September 18, 2023

To Be the Dear God for Once

Einmal der liebe Hergott sein; comedy, Germany, 1942; D: Hans H. Zerlett, S: Hans Moser, Marie Christine Passecker, Lotte Lang, Fritz Odemar, Ivan Petrovich

Karl has been a hotel valet for 35 years, but now gets a chance to be something more: when the hotel manager has to leave for a day, Karl is left to take charge in his absence, which makes him feel like the God of the building. Karl gives a free hotel room to a poor actress and arranges an audition for her in front of a theater manager. Karl also tries to match a piano girl with an uninterested painter. He even tries to break-up a couple whom he thinks are done with their relationship. A thief, Pavlovitch, introduces himself as a detective and gains Karl's trust, only to rob jewelry from a guest, Elvira. Karl clumsily orders that all the hotel guests are summoned in the lobby and searched for stolen goods, but then the hotel director manager returns and fires him. Karl though books a room in the hotel and stays, only to find out Pavlovitch hid the jewelry in his suitcase. When Pavlovitch gets the jewelry again, he is arrested after leaving the hotel, so Karl is again hired to be the hotel valet.

One of only 15 feature films with an average grade of at least 7.0/10 or above on IMDb starring the sympathetic comedian Hans Moser, "To Be the Dear God for Once" is a gentle and light hotel comedy that dwells on the theme of what happens when someone's wish to be the boss comes true and said person realizes it is much more difficult and tough than expected. Hans Moser is charming and funny as the kind, but confusing Karl whose behavior and way of talking reminds of Sweetchuck from "Police Academy III", yet the whole movie is two categories below his talent, never managing to be anything more than just barely amusing. The opening act has Moser's typical comical skills when his Karl is watering the plants with a watering can, only to then drink some water from the can himself. The hotel manager also has this comical exchange with Karl: "Your upper button is open." - "I know. It's my personal touch." - "Does that also include your worn out shoes?" - "If you had been walking in those shoes the whole day, they would have been worn out, too." - "I told you to iron your pants!" - "It doesn't matter how wrinkled the trousers are, what matters is what heart beats in them!" Later on, Karl even opens the letters of a hotel guest, a Professor, because Karl has an agreement with him to not burden his weak nerves with "bad news", which Karl then just throws away. Sadly, the jokes start exhausting themselves already after 20 minutes, leaving only meager humor for the rest of the film, whereas the thin story and passive directing don't enrich the movie. It's not much, but at least it's a well meant, harmless fun with an enthusiastic lead.

Grade:++

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Senso

Senso; drama, Italy, 1954; D: Luchino Visconti, S: Alida Valli, Farley Granger, Massimo Girotti, Heinz Moog, Rina Morelli

After the dissolution of the Republic of Venice in the Napoleonic Wars, the Austrian Empire ruled the region of Lombardy-Venetia from 1815-1866. Venice, 1866. An opera is interupted by a clash between Italian patriots and the Austrian soldiers, and one of the Italians, Roberto, is arrested. He is the cousin of countess Livia, who tries to plead with the Austrian officer Franz to acquit Roberto. Even though married to the older count Serpieri, Livia starts a passionate affair with Franz. The Third Italian War of Independence breaks out, with Italians wanting Lombardy-Venetia to unite with Italy, so Livia goes to her estate in Aldeno. Franz shows up there, and persuades her to give him money of the Italian rebels to bribe a doctor to get exempt from serving as a soldier. Later, Livia travels back to Venice to see Franz again, but only finds him with a prostitute in his apartment. She gives the letter of bribe to the Austrian officer who arrests and shoots Franz for desertion. 

Included in Roger Ebert's list of Great Movies, historical drama "Senso" could play in a double bill with Luchino Visconti's other film "The Leopard", which also explored the theme of Risorgimento (the unification of Italy in the 1860s), but also, at least partially, with "Obssession", except that here the gender roles are switched, and the older countess Livia is obssessed with passionate love for the younger man, Franz, who, though, just exploits her for her money. Unlike the overlong 3-hour "The Leopard", where Visconti's conventional style was not able to hold the attention of the viewers for so long, "Senso" has an ideal running time of two hours and is concise in displaying this rarely talked about historical era where the Lombardy-Venetia regions were under Austrian occupation, but strived for independence and unification with Italy. The movie has an elegant narration with smooth use of colors (bright colors in the first half, when Livia thinks Franz truly loves her; dark colors in the last third, when Livia discovers Franz is only after her money) and exterior shots of Venice, whose architecture is fascinating in any movie. 

Visconti assembled an allegorical story where Livia, an Italian, is the symbol for the Italian lands of Lombardy-Venetia still under the spell of Austrian officer Franz, the symbol for the Austrian occupation. The dialogues and the visual style are mostly conventional, though there are some remarkable lift-offs—for instance, as the war breaks out, the Italian rebel Roberto says to Livia: "We no longer have any rights, Livia, only duties. We must learn to forget ourselves." His idealism is contrasted with Franz's nihilism, who later says: "What is war, after all, if not the most conveniant means to force men to think and act in the way that most suits their leaders?" Livia will thus get disappointed in both the patriotism and love, whereas her break-up with the washed-up Franz in the end goes almost perfectly together with the Italian lands breaking all ties with the Austrian rule. Visconti doesn't dwell much on the war, except in two great sequences—one appears 89 minutes into the film, when three rows of Italian soldiers emerge behinds three rows containing a dozen haystacks, march towards the meadow, an Austrian cavalry spots them from above and starts running towards them down the hill. Another one appears 94 minutes into the film. While stumbling here and there from its too conventional style, "Senso" is a clever and ambitious historical parable tied to a private affair of the couple.

Grade:+++

Monday, September 11, 2023

Detour

Detour; crime / film noir, USA, 1945; D: Edward G. Ulmer, S: Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Edmund MacDonald, Claudia Drake, Tim Ryan

Pianist Al Roberts is surprised when his girlfriend, singer Sue, decides to leave New York for Hollywood to try to make it as an actress. After a while, he phones her and says he is going to Hollywood, too, for them to get married. Unemployed, Al hitchhikes along his trip. He is picked up in a car by Haskell, a man who tells him about his feud with his father whom he hasn't seen for 15 years. During a rainy night, while Al was driving, he noticed Haskell died in his sleep. Assuming the police wouldn't believe him, anyway, Al hides the body in the bushes, and takes Haskell's wallet and identity. Al reaches California and picks up hitchhiker Vera, who recognizes the car and figures Al isn't Haskell. Vera uses this knowledge to try to blackmail Al into pretending he is Haskell to get the inheritance of Haskell's dying, rich father, but Al refuses. Al pull the phone cord to try to disconnect the phone when Vera said she will call the police, but later on found out the cord accidentally strangled Vera. Al returns to wondering, until he is picked up by the police.

Included in Roger Ebert's list of Great Movies, independent film noir "Detour" was too good to have been forgotten, since it has more than enough flair and skill to seem fresh at times even today. However, its too short running time of 67 minutes leaves the impression as if someone "stole" the last third of the story, since the ending comes abruptly, just as the plot gained momentum. The director Edward G. Ulmer crafts a fine distillation of film noir elements, slowly but steadily building up an engaging narrative told in flashbacks of the anti-hero Al (very good Tom Neal). The film follows the unemployed Al traveling as a hitchhiker from New York (!) to Los Angeles, to meet his girlfriend Sue again, and his pessimistic narration has some juicy lines and clever observations ("Money. You know what that is, the stuff you never have enough of. Little green things with George Washington's picture that men slave for, commit crimes for, die for. It's the stuff that has caused more trouble in the world than anything else we ever invented, simply because there's too little of it"). The bizarre plot tangle where he is picked up in a car by Haskell, who dies in his sleep, seemingly of a stroke, so Al takes on his identity by default, is the point at which the movie engages the viewers to the fullest, taking them in as accomplices to Al's suspicious conspiracy. Vera, who figures out Al isn't Haskell, also has several great lines here and there: "Shut up! You're making noises like a husband!" Unfortunately, just as their crime collaboration appears to be heading into one direction, it is abruptly cut short to a full stop due to a rather unconvincing murder at the end, whereas, frustratingly, the character of Sue simply "disappears" from the film when she should have appeared in the finale, maybe as a part of this conspiracy to go even further. One simply gets the impression that this finale left out the third act, a climax, which aggravates a bit the high impression established up to it.

Grade:++

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Mia and Me: Hero of Centopia

Mia and Me: Hero of Centopia; live action-animated fantasy, Germany / Australia / Belgium / India, 2023; D: Adam Gunn, S: Margot Nuccetelli, Dave Willetts, David Kunze (voice), Melanie Hinze (voice), Gedeon Burkhard (voice)

Mia and her grandfather travel via a car to a resort near a coast. However, her vacation cannot last long since the fantasy land Centopia is invaded by the army of a toad, Toxor, who uses purple gas to transform everyone into his brainwashed, blue minion. Mia transforms into an elf and enters Centopia again, joining forces with her unicorn Lyra, warrior Iko and clumsy inventor Phuddle. Mia finds out her deceased parents came from Centopia. She uses special stones to transform Toxor into a normal, good personality, and thus saves Centopia. Mia returns back to the real world and goes to jump with her grandfather into the sea.

Seven years after the live action-animated fantasy TV series "Mia and Me" concluded, this feature length film was made, yet such a long pause wasn't unfortunately used by the screenwriters to conjure up an especially inspired plot. "Mia and Me: Hero of Centopia" is disappointingly thin and meager, capitulating too much towards the routine, offering only the bare minimum: Mia travels to Centopia, defeats the bad guy, leaves, the end. It's all too schematic, without any layer of ingenuity, humor or creativity to upgrade and enrich such a standard good vs. evil story. A big problem is that 90% of the movie plays out in the computer-animated fantasyland Centopia, while only 10% are invested into the live action segment. In the TV series, the live action parts were always the best, having charming moments of Mia trying to find excuses to leave from school or trying to keep her elf identity a secret from other students. By having only two characters appear in the live action segment, Mia and grandfather, this was too little to have better character dynamics or interaction. No students, no school, no other characters. The animated segment is too straight-forward, featuring only generic fighting of the characters against the villain, while attempts at humor are mostly a hit-or-miss affair, except for one good joke, the one involving a unicorn that can talk, so he demonstrates that he knows also other languagues of ducks, pigs and crabs, yet he admits that crabs don't speak but just make "noises".

Grade:+

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3; science-fiction action, USA, 2023; D: James Gunn, S: Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper (voice), Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Chukwudi Iwuji, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel (voice), Sean Gunn, Elizabeth Debicki, Will Poulter, Nico Santos, Sylvester Stallone, Tara Strong (voice)

Guardians of the Galaxy have settled at Knowhere. Adam, a warrior of the Sovereigns, attacks and wounds Rocket, but is chased away by Nebula. The Guardians realize they cannot make a surgery on Rocket because he is implanted with a kill switch in his body, so they go to Orgcorp space station to get a code to nullify it. Rocket remembers his origins: he was a normal raccoon who was given intelligence in an animal testing lab led by scientist High Evolutionary, who wants to create perfect humans, and only uses animals to die by the thousands in his experiments to further his goal. Rocket is saved and thus joins Star-Lord, Groot, Drax, Mantis and a new Gamora to battle High Evolutionary, who created a Counter-Earth populated with humanoid animals in towns, but orders to have the planet exploded because he wasn't satisfied with the result. The Guardians arrest High Evolutionary, while the lab-created children and test animals are evacuated from his space ship. Star-Lord returns to Earth and finds his grandfather is still alive, while Mantis leaves to find herself. Drax is left to raise the lab kids on Knowhere.

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" is better than the weak part II, yet still weaker than part I, and is definitely the most contemplative, complex and tragically emotional edition to the film series. It has a muddled, but fascinating plot which sounds like an inversion of the devo chamber from the '93 "Super Mario Bros." movie, showing a villain, High Evolutionary, who is trying to evolve animals into intelligent anthropomorphic beings in order to use that knowledge to evolve humans into a perfect species, thus posing several uncomfortable questions about achieving ideal goals through mass pain and suffering via exploitation of disposable "others". Its hidden theme is surprisingly subversive: animal testing in laboratories, and how their suffering is "invisible" to humans, indicating specism. Part III is thus not that funny anymore as its original, and features one unexpectedly melancholic-touching sequence, the one where a dying Rocket has a vision of heaven where he is reunited with otter Lylla and his animal friends, which is something on a level of sadness that no other Marvel film managed to achieve. Overlong, overburdened by too many subplots and heavy-handed in certain moments, part III still works in its scarce, but welcomed scenes of humor. One of the best examples is when Star-Lord insults the "facelift" High Evolutionary by comparing his face to RoboCop and Skeletor. Drax reciting Mantis' words to Star-Lord, but then he randomly starts to improvise: "Yesterday, I made a poop shaped like a fish. Even my butt is capable of making an analogy." Star-Lord trying to charm an alien secretary by presenting himself as "Patrick Swayze". The action fight of the Guardians storming the entrance of the henchman 117 minutes into the film and the ensuing shootout are filmed in a great two-minute scene in one take. Despite a strange shift in tones and meandering directions, part III is a worthy conclusion of the saga: James Gunn is ahead of the curve in the superhero genre.

Grade:++

Thursday, August 31, 2023

A Prairie Home Companion

A Prairie Home Companion; drama / comedy / musical, USA, 2006; D: Robert Altman, S: Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan, Tommy Lee Jones, Virginia Madsen, Maya Rudolph, L. Q. Jones

A Prairie Home Companion is a radio show recorded live in Minnesota, but the private detective Guy Noir fears that it might be its last show, as investors plan to shut it down in the TV era and demolish the building. The crew still gives it their best during the recording: sisters Yolanda and Rhonda Johnson sing songs, while Yolanda's daughter Lola writes songs about suicide and death; Cowboys Dusty and Lefty perform "bad jokes" song; the host Garrison Keillor mentions all of the sponsors... A woman in a white trench coat appears to be an angel, so Guy persuades her to escort the Axeman who wants to shut down the show to death via a car crash. However, the show is shut down, anyway. Years later, several members reunite in a diner and talk about their new jobs.

The final film in Robert Altman's meandering career, "A Prairie Home Companion" is situatued somewhere between his best and weakest films, since its homage to the last days of the eponymous radio show has its moments of humor and charm, yet its loose episodic structure with too many characters also revealed some of Altman's flaws in finding a focus. One can sense a feeling of nostalgia and sadness as the radio crew fears this is their last show, the fear of being run over by time and becoming outdated in the TV and Internet era, wrapped in a contemplation about whether what you love to do is profitable or useful in the modern world. The screenplay by real-life host Garrison Keillor is the best when it embraces the behind-the-scenes anecdotes and funny lines, since the sole singing sequences during the recording are uninteresting and mostly bland. Some snappy dialogues and witty lines are delicious. For instance, Guy Noir (a fancy Kevin Kline) descibes a woman: "She was beautiful. Her hair was... what God had in mind when he said: let there be... hair. She gave me a smile so sweet you could have poured it on your pancakes. She had a trench coat so white that rain would be embarassed to fall on it." In a sweet little sequence, Garrison tells Lola how he drove off in his car and accidentally left her father behind at a cafe, where he met her mother, a waitress working there, causing Lola to infer: "I mean, if you hadn't looked behind the back seat and seen he weren't there, I wouldn't exist." - "One of the most beautiful things I ever did not do." The subplot involving a woman who is an angel is ridiculous and doesn't work, whereas it is a pity that Lola wasn't used more in the storyline (she starts of thinking about death, so why not give her a character arc in which she outgrows it through working on the radio show?). Despite an incostant storyline, there are more good bits that keep this film going, and Roger Ebert even included it in his list of Great Movies. 

Grade:++

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast; fantasy romantic musical, USA, 2017, D: Bill Condon, S: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald

A French village, 18th century. Belle is a curious woman who loves to read books. When her father Maurice goes into the forest to pluck a rose for her as a present, he is arrested and sent to jail in a castle run by the Beast, a prince who was cursed by a witch who transformed him into a beast and his entire servants into anthropomorphic furniture, and who can only break the curse and turn back into a human if someone falls in love with him. Belle swaps places with her father, and stays in the castle. Despite initial hostility, Belle and the beast develop feelings for each other. When the villagers storm the castle to kill the Beast, former soldier and Belle's admirer Gaston shoots with his gun at the Beast. However, Gaston falls from the height of the tower, whereas Belle confesses she loves Beast, which breask the curse and transforms them back to human form.

It is an unwritten rule that in its remake-mania wherein Walt Disney Pictures' marketers aim to sell their own products twice, all the live-action movie adaptations are weaker than their original animated classics, with the only exception being as to how much. Luckily, Bill Condon's "Beauty and the Beast" isn't that far away from their famed '91 animated film, yet one can feel that the majority of the storyline and scenes feel artifical and predictable, lacking that genuine feel that would make all of this come to life. Emma Watson (Hermione from the "Harry Potter" film series) is a slightly wrong choice to play Belle, since she doesn't look nothing like Belle from said animated film, yet she gives a good performance and sings really well. The movie works the best when it tries to be its very own thing: some of the new jokes work (after meeting all the living furniture, Belle picks up a hairbrush and asks: "What's your name?", but Cogsworth laughs: "It's a hairbrush!"; LeFou singing until he stops because he has to spell: "And his name is G-A-S-T... I believe there's another T... It just occurred to me that I'm illiterate and I've never actually had to spell it out loud before.."). The ending even has a deliciously naughty joke said by Belle ("How would you feel about growing a beard?"). Conversely, it is the weakest when it is just a lame copy-paste of the original, very noticable in the almost identical musical sequences of "Be Our Guest" and "Beauty and the Beast" (during the dance sequence). Everything here is done right, there are no illogical or wrong moments, all this is neatly polished and perfect, and yet, one somehow feels that it lacks a soul, as if it is missing some 'raw' energy to come to life, which is why the viewers will only rewatch this movie in its '91 animated edition.

Grade:++

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Waking Life

Waking Life; animated art-film, USA, 2001; D: Richard Linklater, S: Wiley Wiggins, Adam Goldberg, Kim Krizan, Eamonn Healy, Nicky Katt, Timothy "Speed" Levitch, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Alex Jones, Steven Soderbergh

A man has several dreams: he arrives at a city and hitchhikes in a boat-car driven by a wiseguy. The man sees a note on the street which says: "Look to your right", and as he looks in that direction, a car runs into him. He seemingly awakens, but is just in another dream. And another. And another. He encounters philosophers contemplating about life, talking about existentialism, free will and synchronicity. A man pours gasoline over himself and sets himself on fire out of protest against the world. A red man shouts against his enemies while being in jail. Alex Jones shouts over the loudspeaker while driving a car. Another guy warns him that you cannot know if you are dreaming all until you wake up. Finally, the man seemingly awakens, but then starts floating and flies up into the sky.

Included in Roger Ebert's list of Great Movies, "Waking Life" seems like a rotoscopic version of Richard Linklater's own previous film "Slacker" which had an experimental structure without a real story, and consisted just out of random episodes featuring unusual characters that random appear and disappear in the city. "Waking Life" also has no story and instead just consists out of twenty 5-minute episodes in which random people talk, which is its biggest flaw. At first, the rotoscopic animation is fascinating, with lavish colors and a dreamy mood to it, but once you get use to it, you realize that these disparate episodes are of a varying degree of success: some are interesting, some are boring. Kim Krizian, for instance, has a gorgeous monologue about communication: "Or what is anger or love? When I say love, the sound comes out of my mouth and it hits the other person's ear, travels through this byzantine conduit in their brain through their memories of love or lack of love, and they register what I'm saying and they say yes, they understand. But how do I know they understand? Because words are inert. They're just symbols. They're dead, you know? And so much of our experience is intangible. So much of what we perceive cannot be expressed. It's unspeakable." Another great moment is when the protagonist walks, randomly passes by a red-hair woman, but then the woman runs after him: "Could we do that again? I know we haven't met, but I don't want to be an ant. You know? I mean, it's like we go through life with our antennas bouncing off one another, continously on ant autopilot, with nothing really human required of us." They then stop and have an endearing, honest and heartfelt conversation, all until the protagonist looks at his watch, notices the numbers are "fuzzy" and realizes it's all a dream, so he asks her: "How is it being a character in a dream?" There is an overabundance of philosophy, which is refreshing and challenging, yet a scarcity of a guideline of where all of this is heading, since all these episodes just come and go without any point, leaving a feeling of an aimless exercise. Art-film lovers will enjoy it more, but the proper audience will enjoy it less and perceive it as frustratingly hermetic and abstract.

Grade:++

Saturday, August 19, 2023

A Year of the Quiet Sun

A Year of the Quiet Sun; drama / romance, Poland / Italy / Germany, 1984; D: Krzysztof Zanussi, S: Maja Komorowska, Scott Wilson, Hanna Skarżanka, Ewa Dałkowska, Vadim Glowna, Daniel Webb

Poland post-World War II. The widowed Emilia and her mother who has an infected leg try to survive in a small one-room apartment. The city is plagued by poverty, robbery and ruins, yet Emilia tries to earn money by baking cookies. Emilia meets US soldier Norman who is searching for the grave of executed Allied soldiers. Even though Emilia doesn't speak English, and Norman doesn't speak Polish, they fall in love. He wants to take her to Berlin, and from there on to the US, to live on his farm. Realizing she doesn't have the money to pay for a smuggler to transfer both of them outside Poland, the mother opens windows during cold nights and refuses to take penicilin, and therefore dies faster. Emilia gives her place to prostitute Stella and doesn't show up at the train station where Norman was waiting for her. decades later, an old Emilia lives in a retirement home run by nuns, and is informed that she inherited money from the US. She falls unconscious, and hallucinates that she is dancing with Norman in Monument Valley.

Included in Roger Ebert's list of Great Movies, Krzysztof Zanussi's quiet and minimalist drama of an American-Polish couple in post-war Poland is a good little film, yet it feels dated and too banal by today's time. The simplistic story never manages to engage on a higher level, among others due to too many moments when it falls into the trap of melodrama, yet it features a lot of symbolism which was hidden and was understandable only to Polish and Eastern European countries during that time—the US soldier who wants to save the poor Emilia by taking her to the West where she will have a better life was interpreted as the Western democracy trying to pull Poland out of Communist dictatorship and poverty into a better system, which was bold during that era, and this is why in Poland "A Year of the Quiet Sun" was referenced after the fall of Communism seven years later. There are some interesting details here and there (Emilia watches as a landmine explodes in the mud after it was triggered by a chain dragged through the ground by a cow that just keeps on walking; Norman and Emilia going to the attic at night with just a candle to have intimacy, as he covers them with his jacket due to winter cold), yet mostly the story plays out straightforward, without much ingenuity or an enriching style that would upgrade it. The final two sequences involving an elegant transition / time jump and a dream scene are impressive, playing with the motive of Poland who suffered through a terrible past and is about to suffer even more in the Communist present, yet more inspiration and sense of cinema would have been welcomed.

Grade:++