Polish Cinema Classics Volume II

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After the success of last year’s Polish Cinema Classics Volume I, which comprised four remarkable films from the years of 1958 – 1960, Second Run DVD presents a second volume in its Polish Cinema Classics series, gathering together a rich blend of later works from three of Poland’s greatest filmmakers. This special edition 3-DVD box set contains these celebrated films, fully restored in new director-approved HD masters, and released for the first time ever in the UK.

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The Promised Land (Ziemia obiecana)

Second Run / Andrzej Wajda / 1974 / Poland

Running Time:  163 minutes

Region Code: Region Free

Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (anamorphic)

Video: DVD9

Audio: Polish Dolby 2.0 Stereo / Original mono (restored)

Language: Polish

Subtitles: English

Adapted from the classic homonymous 1897 novel by the Polish novelist, and 1924 laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Władysław Stanisław Reymont, Andrzej Wajda’s lavish 1974 drama ‘The Promised Land’ is a sweeping, immerisve and intricately detailed work of epic proportions, and presented here in the long unseen original uncut cinema version, is undoubtedly the main draw here.

Set in the industrial city of Łódź, during Poland’s early 20th-century industrial revolution, the film depicts the story of three friends: Polish nobleman, Karol (Daniel Olbrychski), German, Max (Andrzej Seweryn) and independent Jewish businessman Moritz (Wojciech Pszoniak), united in the ruthless pursuit of fortune and struggling to build a factory in the raw and newly developing world of 19th century capitalism, and ultimately fulfil their dreams of becoming millionaire magnates in the textile industry.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1976 Academy Awards, and voted the best film in the history of Polish cinema in the monthly Polish magazine ‘Film’, ‘The Promised Land’ has a much different feel to Wajda’s more intimate and more visceral preceding works, but is nevertheless a grandiose tale of greed, human cruelty and betrayal, effectively accentuating both the bleak state of affairs and the ruthless brutality of the period, and evoking an overall very authentic and absorbing tone and feel.

Combining Wajda’s familiar astute attention to detail, exceptional scenic composition and mise en scene, and deep, effective and multi-layered characterisation (particularly significant in his slightly stereotypical depiction of the Jews), with the rich texture, social depth and epic, lyrical sweep of the works of Charles Dickens, Émile Zola and Maxim Gorky (as well as German expressionists such as Knopf, Meidner and Grosz, who supplied affirmation of social protest), ‘The Promised Land’ is an opulent and truly outstanding achievement of impressive scale and depth and in this newly restored uncut HD presentation from Second Run, proves essential viewing.

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Escape from the ‘Liberty’ Cinema (Ucieczka z kina ‘Wolność’)

Second Run / Wojciech Marczewski / 1990 / Poland

Running Time:  88 minutes

Region Code: Region Free

Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (anamorphic)

Video: DVD9

Audio: Polish Dolby 2.0 Stereo / Original mono (restored)

Language: Polish

Subtitles: English

The most recent of the three offerings, the surreal 1990 anti-totalitarian satire ‘Escape from the ‘Liberty’ Cinema’ (Ucieczka z kina ‘Wolność’), from the intellectual, and much censored director Wojciech Marczewski, is a complex, allusive and profound examination of the nature and extensive effects of censorship, and, though there are some dark and very intelligent underlying themes, certainly proves the most light-hearted and whimsical work in the collection.

Set in a unnamed town just before the collapse of Poland’s communist regime in the late 1980’s, the film centres on the tired and lonely provincial film censor of the town’s District Censorship Office (Janusz Gajos), who suddenly finds himself bewildered when, in a highly surreal twist, the actors in a romantic drama decide to go on strike, and protest against the mediocrity of the content, addressing the dumfounded audience directly from the screen.

With significant nods to such inventive works as Buster Keaton’s ‘Sherlock, Jr.’ and Woody Allen’s ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’, Wojciech Marczewski’s multi-award winning film is a refreshing, penetrating and darkly comic work of great intelligence and shrewd sagacity, and combining sharp, biting satire with a skilful exploration of some powerful and highly important themes, proved one of the key works of the political change of 1989.

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Illumination (Iluminacja)

Second Run / Krzysztof Zanussi / 1973 / Poland

Running Time:  87 minutes

Region Code: Region Free

Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (anamorphic)

Video: DVD9

Audio: Polish Dolby 2.0 Stereo / Original mono (restored)

Language: Polish

Subtitles: English

The earliest of the three works included in this collection, and one of the earliest feature films from the now multi-award winning veteran director, Krzysztof Zanussi, the landmark 1973 fictional-documentary work ‘Illumination’ (‘Iluminacja’) proves arguably the most intellectual and philosophical work in the collection, achieving a superb blend of insightful scientific exploration, striking artistry, imagination and alluring, inventive narrative structure.

In a profound exploration of man’s place within the universe, the film follows the travails of the initially egotistical young intellectual physics student Francis Retman (Stanisław Latałło), who, after putting his studies on hold due to familial circumstances, goes in search of the answers to some highly complex, existential questions, subsequently taking employment in a variety of unrelated, menial jobs, and ultimately discovering a great deal more about himself and the problems in his own life than he initially expected.

Effectively fusing searching, philosophical documentary with innovative and slightly esoteric fiction, Zanussi’s mosaic and kaleidoscopic film is a work of acute precision, sharp intellect and subtle emotion, exploring some highly poignant and enduring themes, and proving an overall superb and highly accomplished achievement.

Special Features:

Presented from superb new high-definition restorations of the films, approved by the filmmakers.

Newly filmed, exclusive interviews with directors Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi and Wojciech Marczewski.

A Trace (Ślad) – Marcin Latałło’s acclaimed 1996 short film about his father, Stanisław Latałło, the lead actor in Illumination.

New and improved English subtitle translations.

Booklets featuring specially commissioned new essays on the films by David Thompson, Michał Oleszczyk and Michael Brooke.

Overall:

Though undeniably worth it for Wajda’s epic alone, the opportunity to own three superb works from three of Poland’s finest filmmakers, in new, fully restored, director-approved HD masters (and available for the first time ever in the UK), makes this another highly recommended, must-have release from Second Run.

Release Date: 25 March, 2013:

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