The series "Martin Scorsese Presents Masterpieces of Polish Cinema" includes classics, treasures little known to American audiences and some surprises (no Polanski).
The films were made between 1957 and 1987, when cinema offered an outlet for creativity and relatively free expression. By telling tales about fantastic realms, distant history or seemingly individual concerns, Polish filmmakers found an outlet for ribald humor, shrewd political satire and sober assessments of their nation's troubled history.
Through the end of August, St. Anthony Main will screen 21 of Scorsese's favorites.
On Aug. 14, Krzysztof Zanussi, one of the leading Polish directors of the 1970s and '80s, will personally present his dramas "The Illumination," "Camouflage" and "The Constant Factor."
"Blind Chance" revolves around a young man running to catch a train. Krzysztof Kieslowski used this everyday moment to explore a triptych of parallel universes based on three different outcomes of his breathless race. Witek, the main character, lives out a unique fate in each circumstance, yet he remains at heart the same person. Kieslowski's richly imaginative film asks us to consider how seemingly trivial events might alter the course of our lives forever, and how we can make choices without ever knowing their future effects. (2 p.m. Fri., 1 p.m. Aug. 31)
"Austeria" concerns a group of Jewish refugees trapped at an inn between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Poland on the day World War I breaks out. Director Jerzy Kawalerowicz offers a harsh rebuke to Poland's long history of officially sanctioned anti-Semitism, but he does not sentimentalize his subjects. The film views Jewish culture reverently while presenting its individual characters as flawed, quarrelsome, warts-and-all personalities who bicker while artillery thunders outside. (3:30 p.m. Aug. 10, 1 p.m. Aug. 13)
"The Saragossa Manuscript" is a breathtaking mindbender, an experiment in mazelike, story-within-a-story narrative as trippy as "Inception," "2001" or "Mulholland Drive," but with a playful sense of humor. During the Napoleonic Wars, a young officer (Zbigniew Cybulski, the Polish James Dean) travels through a haunted patch of the Spanish countryside. In an abandoned house he pores over an old book that pulls him into a labyrinth of dreamlike, interlocking adventures. The film is slow going at first, but over its three-hour running time it builds up an irresistible charge of mystical momentum. Added bonus: a sublimely eerie score by Krzysztof Penderecki. (1 p.m. Aug. 11 & Aug. 17.)
For the complete schedule and ticket information, visit mspfilm.org/films-and-events.