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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 3:47 pm 

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Andrzej Wajda: Three War Films

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In 1999, Polish director Andrzej Wajda received an Honorary Academy Award for his body of work: more than thirty-five feature films, beginning with A Generation in 1955. Wajda’s next film, Kanal, the first ever made about the Warsaw Uprising, won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes and launched Wajda on the path to international renown, a status secured with the release of his masterpiece, Ashes and Diamonds, in 1958. These three groundbreaking films helped usher in the Polish School movement and have often been regarded as a trilogy. But each boldly stands on its own—a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the struggle for personal and national freedom. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this director-approved edition, with new transfers of all three films and extensive interviews with the filmmaker and his colleagues.

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A Generation

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Stach is a wayward teen living in squalor on the outskirts of Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Guided by an avuncular Communist organizer, he is introduced to the underground resistance—and to the beautiful Dorota. Soon he is engaged in dangerous efforts to fight oppression and indignity.

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Kanal

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"Watch them closely, for these are the last hours of their lives," announces a narrator, foretelling the tragedy that unfolds as a war-ravaged company of Home Army resistance fighters tries to escape the Nazis through the sewers of Warsaw. Kanal was the first film about the Warsaw Uprising.

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Ashes and Diamonds

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On the last day of World War II, Polish exiles of war and the occupying Soviet forces confront the beginning of a new day and a new Poland. In this incendiary environment, we find Home Army soldier Maciek Chelmicki, who has been ordered to assassinate an incoming commissar.

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DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION THREE-DISC SET:

-New, restored high-definition digital transfers
-Audio commentary by film scholar Annette Insdorf on Ashes and Diamonds
-More than ninety minutes of exclusive new interviews with Andrzej Wajda and colleagues, discussing the director’s career and the making of these films
-Vintage newsreel on the making of Ashes and Diamonds
-Ceramics from Ilza (Ceramika Ilzecka), Wajda’s 1951 film school short
-Jan Nowak-Jezioranski: Courier from Warsaw, an interview by Wajda of a Warsaw Uprising insider
-Rare behind-the-scenes production photos, publicity stills, and posters
-A gallery of Wajda’s original drawings and paintings
-New and improved English subtitle translations
-PLUS: New essays by film scholars and critics Ewa Mazierska, John Simon, and Paul Coates


Last edited by Narshty on Wed Dec 22, 2004 5:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 5:05 pm 
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Christ!!! They're releasing WAY too much each month now.

At any rate I'm buying this, Jules and Jim and The Sword of Doom and if I have the money, flipping on one of the others.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 5:36 pm 
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Awesome...this, The River, L'Eclisse and and Jules and Jim...I'm getting them.

I'll rent Sword of Doom and Young Torless, but only because I can't afford to buy them.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 10:52 pm 
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cdnchris wrote:
Christ!!! They're releasing WAY too much each month now.


You say it as though it's a bad thing.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 11:01 pm 
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The Elegant Dandy Fop wrote:
cdnchris wrote:
Christ!!! They're releasing WAY too much each month now.


You say it as though it's a bad thing.


i think he means in terms of money it will cost. :wink:

hektor wrote:
If this continues at this rate I will not be able to continue to purchase everything they issue?


lol...is this a question you're asking or a statement you're making? :wink:


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 11:23 pm 
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godardslave wrote:
i think he means in terms of money it will cost. :wink:


Yes. :)


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2004 11:38 pm 

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I hereby declare that all further jokes/jibes/clever comments in this thread must be conveyed without the use of smilies.

Carry on.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2004 11:56 pm 
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=D> Martha, I think what you're trying to say is:

[-o< [-X to :D = Image = ](*,)


Last edited by Simon on Mon Oct 20, 2008 11:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 6:59 am 
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I remember seeing Ashes and Diamonds years ago and being very impressed, so I'm looking forward to seeing it again and the earlier films too - here is an article from the February 1998 issue (page 59) of Sight and Sound on the trilogy that related to a Eureka video release:

Geoffrey Macnab admires Wajda's classic trilogy

There was a time when Andrez Wajda was easily the best-known Polish film-maker in the west. One of the giants of post-war East European cinema, he exercised an enormous influence on young film-makers from Polanski and Kieslowski in Poland to Lindsay Anderson in the UK. The stark black-and-white imagery of wartime Warsaw in Spielberg's Schindler's List bears his imprint (it is no surprise that the production designer on that film was Allan Starski, one of Wajda's proteges).

Nowadays, though, Wajda seems a marginal, anachronistic figure. He has almost disappeared from British screens. His last two features, Miss Nobody (Panna Nikt, 1996) and Holy Week (Wielki Tydzien, 1996), failed to surface in British cinemas. His work is seldom seen on television. As he himself acknowledges, audiences have changed. In the late 90s, his brand of politically committed cinema no longer seems as relevant as when he first sprang to international prominence 40 years ago.

The prospective appearence on video of Wajda's famous trilogy about Polish wartime experience - A Generation (Pokolenie, 1954);Kanal and Ashes and Diamonds (Popiol i Diament, 1958), provides a reminder of just what an influential film-maker he used to be. The tentative way in which Eureka are handling the films suggests that they are not easy to sell. Ashes and Diamonds, the last in the trilogy, was the first released. Boasting a charismatic performance from Zbigniew Cybulski, "the Polish James Dean", as a world-weary fighter in the anti-communist resistance, it is the the most famous of the films and therefore, one imagines, the easiest to market. It is now followed by A Generation, the first part of the trilogy. Kanal (1957) may be released later this year.

When the 28 year old Wajda made A Generation, his debut feature, he was clearly in thrall to the Italian neo-realists. He eschewed the contrivance of studio film-making, preferring to work on location with young, untested actors. The opening shot, a long pan across a bleak, urban landscape accompanied by a haunting pipe music, wouldn't look out of place in a Rossellini film. The nostalgic voiceover, in which the narrator recalls his Warsaw childhood, is the same device Fellini uses in I Vitelloni.

At first, as we see three boys playing with a knife, this seems to be shaping up as a typical rites of passage story. But the gentle beginning belies the harshness of what follows. Bohdan Czeszko's screenplay, based on his own novel, is set in Warsaw in 1942, during the Nazi occupation. There is very little idyllic about the lives of the youngsters. If they transgress or join the resistance, they are liable to be executed. The protagonist Stach (Tadeusz Lomnicki) knows as much. He sees a friend shot by a Nazi sentry merely for trying to steal some coal. Walking the streets, he comes across the bodies of two patriots, hanging from a gallows in a public square (Wajda shows him staring transfixed at their dangling legs).

Just occasionally, a hint of agit-prop seeps into the storytelling. The young communists are portrayed as idealistic heroes. Some of the dialogue, notably when a Marxist old-timer in the carpentry workshop explains to Stach how he is exploited by his capitalist boss, sounds as if it was drafted by apparatchiks. Wajda was making the film for the government, who clearly regarded it as first and foremost a propaganda exercise. However, the energy and lyricism of the filmmaking counters the didacticism. As Roman Polanski, who plays one of the youngsters, put it, "for us, it was tremendously important. All of Polish cinema was beginning with it. . . we worked night and day. Wajda believed in what he was doing. This was something utterly new in Poland (it was the time of Stalinism) that film was different, young". (Quoted in Andrzej Wajda, by Boleslaw Michalek, Paris, 1964).

The protagonists are sucked into political resistance in spite of themselves. "The others say you're tough but I think you're a kid." Dorota (Urszula Modrzynska), the beautiful resistance leader tells Stach. At that moment, we realise just how young he really is. Wajda conveys both the exhilaration Stach and his friends feel when they have guns in their hands and their terror in the face of the violence and death they encounter. They are not allowed a childhood. As if to emphasise the fact, in one beautifully observed scene the smoke from the burning ghetto billows around the carousel at a funfair.

Just as Maciek (Cybulski) in Ashes and Diamonds is able to forget the political struggle for a moment when he has a brief affair, Stach too enjoys a short, doomed romance. The same mood of fatalism runs through both films. Wajda's heroes and heroines are attempting to resist the tide of history. It's a forlorn, even suicidal endeavour, but there is a very Polish heroism in their folly.

As the neo-realists discovered, bombed-out cities provide superbly atmospheric backdrops. In A Generation, Wajda makes excellent use of the wasteland and rubble-strewn streets of Warsaw. The chase sequence, in which Stach's friend Jasio (Tadesusz Janczar) flees his Nazi pursuers over roofs and down side-streets anticipates Maciek's equally forlorn dash for freedom at the end of Ashes and Diamonds. Wajda shows Jasio caught at the top of a maze-like stairwell with nowhere left to go. It's a highly symbolic moment - even at a dead-end, he refuses to surrender.

The Nazi occupation of Poland is a subject that Wajda returns to again and again in his work. As late as Holy Week, he was still obesssively raking over the period of the Warsaw uprisings. His best known films of the 70s and 80s, Man of Marble (Czlowiek z marmur, 1977) and Man of Iron (Czlowiek z zedaza, 1981), focus equally intently on the Poles' fight against the communist authorities. He thrives on opposition. Perhaps inevitably his work began to lose its urgency and relevance after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

A Generation stands up remarkably well. Whether it will find a new audience on video remains to be seen. If it does not, all Wajda fans are liable to lose out. Eureka only plan to release Kanal if sales of Ashes and Diamonds and A Generation make it seem worthwhile.


Last edited by colinr0380 on Wed Jan 05, 2005 12:12 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 7:11 am 
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Zbigniew Cybulski who appears in A Generation and stars in Ashes and Diamonds died in 1967 and Wajda made a little tribute to him in the film Everything For Sale. Interestingly Cybulski named his son Maciek (I would guess in tribute to his role in Ashes and Diamonds)


Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Jul 31, 2007 5:31 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2005 1:02 pm 
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They've been taken off the site.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2005 1:08 pm 

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oldsheperd wrote:
They've been taken off the site.


I just noticed this as well. This can't be good news.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2005 1:12 pm 
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Has this ever happened before?


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2005 1:37 pm 
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It could be that March was getting really congested with slippage of MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO & KAGEMUSHA to that month.... Still it's unusual to remove them completely - speaks of a more serious hitch?


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2005 2:14 pm 
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Maybe they're making room for a forth disc in the boxset. Hopefully. Either that or they're not happy with any of the covers their art department came up with! :)


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2005 2:17 pm 
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Maybe they're holding off to get them Director approved? I wonder if the 78 year old director is in any shape to do so?


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2005 11:53 pm 
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Strange, I specifically remember them not being approved, but I'm probably wrong.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 12:25 am 
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harri wrote:
Strange, I specifically remember them not being approved, but I'm probably wrong.

From post No. 1: "The Criterion Collection is proud to present this director-approved edition, with new transfers of all three films and extensive interviews with the director and his colleagues."


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 12:42 am 
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I'm very wrong. Instead of researching for myself I was just going by whether or not I remembered the signature from the website. Thanks Donald.

So how long until we delete this topic, since it's no longer a Criterion title?


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 1:30 am 
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harri wrote:
So how long until we delete this topic, since it's no longer a Criterion title?


How do we know it's no longer a title? I don't think that just because it's been taken off the calendar, that it's been cancelled indefinitely, or am I missing something?


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 1:31 am 
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Maybe they just can't release it in March and have decided to push it to April. I know it seems odd to not just change the date to April, but maybe since they haven't announced other April titles they didn't feel they should keep it posted. Just a thought.

But it's good news for me because now I can probably invest in other titles that month. Whoo-hoo!


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 2:05 am 
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I was just thinking the same thing. When Kagemusha and Idaho were pushed back to March, the March titles had already been announced. Maybe they figure if they change the Wajdas to April (or May) on the site before the other titles for that month are announced, visitors might think that's all that's coming. I expect that there's been a slight delay (maybe artwork related, since it had been getting pretty late for that to still be unavailable) and the set will reappear on the site soon enough.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 10:17 pm 

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I've emailed Mulvaney and am sure others have as well-- maybe we ought to just relax until we get his vaguely-worded reply. At which point, of course, we can speculate some more.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 11:31 pm 
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It was probably moved to April and will be announced with the April titles along with the cover art.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2005 2:13 pm 

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Quote:
Dear Martha,

The Wajda set has been delayed slightly. Expect it in spring.

Best,
JM


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