Monday, October 10, 2016

Andrzej Wajda (1926-2016)

Wajda, arguably Poland's greatest filmmaker, died on October 9 at age 90, just one month after his latest film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. He made his name in the 1950s with a series of grim, gritty war movies. He became a chronicler of Polish history, including (at his own risk) the history-in-the-making of the early 1980s. Lech Walesa played himself in Wajda's Man of Iron, and was the subject of a Wajda biopic thirty years later. When things got too hot Wajda became an international (albeit European) filmmaker, his most notable product of exile being the French Revolutionary drama Danton. With the end of the Cold War the west seemed to lose interest in him but international acclaim returned with his 2007 picture Katyn, a further settling of scores with the Russians who oppressed his country. His last film, Afterimage, appears to be a vindication of art against the claims of Marxist-Leninism through a painter's struggle against Socialist Realist orthodoxy. Despite living under Communism for much of his career, Wajda still created a formidable body of work within Poland, which was perhaps more liberal toward art than other Warsaw Pact countries. His best work, one hopes, will transcend ideology over time. I've reviewed a few Wajda movies over the years, so follow the links to learn more about Kanal, Promised Land, Man of Marble, Man of Iron, Danton and Katyn. I hope you'll then go on to look at some of the actual films by this great director.

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