Movies: 'Summer Love' at Walker makes art of western parts

  • Article by: Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 10, 2008 - 4:21 PM

English-language film puts a Polish spin on an American genre.

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Polish writer-director Piotr Uklanski’s “Summer Love” includes glorious renderings of gunplay, galloping horses and grimy desperadoes.

 We've just graduated from a year of deliberately perplexing drama. The iconoclastic finales of "No Country for Old Men," "There Will Be Blood," "Zodiac," "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," "The Mist," "Sweeney Todd" or even "The Sopranos" scorn the gift-wrapped catharsis that American entertainment once could be counted on to provide. They willingly leave us disturbed.

The English-language Polish film "Summer Love" goes further. This pierogi western disassembles the genre mechanics of the gunslinger movie and makes a Dada collage of its gears and springs. Writer/director Piotr Uklanski, a visual artist turning to film, tosses out all the parts that bore him (plot, character development) while playing games with the horse opera's classic images. He gives us glorious renderings of gunplay, galloping horses and grimy-looking desperadoes, edited together in a fashion that suggests a story is about to break out any minute. Teasingly, it never does.

Instead, bigger-than-life western archetypes -- our old friends the Man With No Name (Karel Roden), the Boozy Sheriff (Boguslaw Linda), the Lusty Barmaid (Katarzyna Figura) and the Wanted Outlaw (Val Kilmer!) -- clash in vignettes that seem to be half-remembered from the works of John Ford and Sergio Leone.

The look of the film is handsome, with widescreen vistas that sometimes could pass for the American Southwest and at other times resemble a chilly northern European limbo. The film is very much an in-joke.

Early on, Roden suffers a scalp wound that causes an exuberant amount of crimson blood to cascade down his face. Later, when bullets pepper a wagon hauling parcels of dry pigments, Linda appears with his face powdered bright blue. A point-of-view shot shows a severed head rolling away like a bowling ball. Roden and Figura have a sex scene in which their intertwined bodies graphically spell out S-E-X.

Such droll moments are stretched rather thin over the film's 94-minute running time, but hearing the actors drawl their 10-gallon dialogue in Pope John Paul accents gives many of the episodes a giddy punch.

Uklanski will be present to introduce his film on Saturday (7:30 p.m.).

Colin Covert • 612-673-7186

"Summer Love" is the first feature in Walker Art Center's series of boundary-breaking movies, "Expanding the Frame," which runs through Feb. 24. Other films to be introduced by their filmmakers include:

St. Paul native Esther B. Robinson's documentary "A Walk to the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory" (7:30 p.m. next Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19 and 2 p.m. Jan. 20).

• "Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman," Jennifer Fox's humorous examination of the lives of women in 13 nations (six one-hour episodes Jan. 31-Feb. 2).

Four films by Germany's Ulrike Ottinger (Feb. 22-24), including "Prater," which recounts the memories of generations of workers at Vienna's famous Prater amusement park.

Info: www.walkerart.org or 612-375-7600.


  • SUMMER LOVE

    ★★½ out of four stars

    The setup: The Man With No Name, the Lusty Barmaid, the Boozy Sheriff, the Wanted Outlaw and other bigger-than-life western archetypes clash in this Polish tribute to horse operas.

    What works (and doesn't): The film tweaks the clichés of the genre into overblown visual jokes. But without the map of a plot to give it direction, the story wanders aimlessly.

    Great scene: Val Kilmer's farewell.

    When: 7:30 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun., 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26, 2 p.m. Jan. 27.

    Where: Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.

    Unrated but includes violence and nudity.

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