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Man of Marvel: Andrzej Wajda

January 16, 2009 - February 18, 2009

Kanal, January 16

Few countries can boast of a filmmaker with the cultural importance of Andrzej Wajda. Beginning in the early 1950s, through a series of masterful films, Wajda played a vital role in Poland’s self-awareness as a nation. His stunning works, such as the chill wartime trilogy A Generation, Kanal, and Ashes and Diamonds and the enduring diptych Man of Marble and Man of Iron, combined virtuosic filmmaking, vivid depiction, and uncanny truth-telling that ever so subtly nurtured the possibility of dissent against the communist regime. Trained at the Leninist-inspired film school of Lodz, which also gave us Krzysztof Kieślowski and Roman Polanski, Wajda ironically found the school to be a haven for progressive artistry. Given his stature in the ranks of directors—his second film Kanal won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 1957—Wajda was able to evade the heavy hand of the censors, creating surprisingly candid exposés of contemporary history that also found resonance in the heart of the Polish people. Other works in Wajda’s oeuvre fortified a national culture by delving into historical epics and literary classics such as The Promised Land, Ashes, and The Wedding. This series represents three decades of impassioned art-making that found its valued place not only within a national cinema but in a world cinema where it was heartily awarded. Accepting his Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2000, Andrzej Wajda said, “My fervent hope is that the only flames people will encounter will be the great passions of the heart—love, gratitude, and solidarity.” Here’s to an old flame.

Steve Seid
Video Curator

Friday, January 16, 2009
6:30 p.m. A Generation
Wajda brought a fresh style to his first film, about Resistance youths. Roman Polanski, who debuts here, said, “The whole Polish cinema began with it.”

Friday, January 16, 2009
8:15 p.m. Kanal
Wajda’s breakthrough film, a prizewinner at Cannes, is an unforgettably vivid depiction of the last days of the 1944 Warsaw uprising against the Nazis.

Saturday, January 17, 2009
8:00 p.m. Ashes and Diamonds
Introduced by Tony Lin. On the last day of the war, a young Resistance fighter (Zbigniew Cybulski) is caught in a Hamlet-like quandary: to kill or not to kill.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
7:00 p.m. Ashes
An epic set during the Napoleonic Wars, this spectacular and often cruel film was the screen debut of one of Wajda’s favorite actors, Daniel Olbrychski.

Saturday, January 24, 2009
8:30 p.m. Innocent Sorcerers
A jazz-playing, motorcycle-riding doctor represents the ’50s “lost generation,” who survived the war but cannot face the peace.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
7:00 p.m. The Promised Land
Wajda’s epic, Dickensian portrait of greed in turn-of-the-century Lodz is “a prophetic vision of the industrial revolution impinging on the pastoral life of Poland.”—Variety

Saturday, January 31, 2009
8:30 p.m. Everything for Sale
Masterful biopic about “the Polish James Dean,” Zbigniew Cybulski, who died tragically, and absurdly, in 1967.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009
7:00 p.m. Man of Marble
A Citizen Kane–like search for a forgotten worker-hero churns up an unsavory history. “A political epic, compassionate and as bitterly funny as a cartoon.”—N.Y. Times

Friday, February 6, 2009
8:30 p.m. Landscape After Battle
A former concentration camp doubles as a displaced persons camp following the war in this film of “endless cruel ironies.”—Time Out

Wednesday, February 11, 2009
7:00 p.m. Man of Iron
Wajda’s loose sequel to Man of Marble is an inventive feature shot during the very event it portrays, the 1980 Solidarity shipyard strike in Gdansk.

Saturday, February 14, 2009
8:35 p.m. The Wedding
Wajda adapts a classic Polish verse play “with full romantic abandon.”—Time Out

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
7:00 p.m. The Maids of Wilko
Please note: The screening of Wajda’s Danton originally scheduled for this date has been canceled. Based on a novel by Polish symbolist Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, The Maids of Wilko represents an unsentimental but poetic return to the past to explore the ironies of love and hope.

PFA wishes to thank the following individuals and institutions for their contributions to this series: Monika Fabijanska and Sheila Skaff, Polish Cultural Institute, New York; Polish National Film Archive and Polish Film Institute, Warsaw; and Jeffrey A. Pennington, Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies at UC Berkeley.

Man of Marvel is cosponsored by the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Prints from the Polish Cultural Institute.