All’s Quiet On Polish Movie Front

It’s been a quiet winter for Polish feature filmmaking. Only two films will be on show in Berlin, both in the Forum: veteran Kazimierz Kutz’s “The Convert,” starring the popular Zbigniew Zamachowski (“Three Colors: White”), and “Miraculous Place” by Jan Jakub Kolski, whose “Johnny the Aquarius” drew appreciative nods in Cannes’ UnCertain Regard last year.

Poland’s big guns are silent for the time being: Krzysztof Zanussi and Krzysztof Kieslowski are not currently making films, for separate reasons, and the most famous Pole of all, Andrzej Wajda, is set to move to Krakow to oversee a Japanese museum he’s started there. Agnieszka Holland (“The Secret Garden”) continues to work abroad, shuttling between Paris and New York.

Biggest news involves the first joint venture between pubcaster TVP and pay-TV newcomer Canal Plus Polska to make “Nothing Funny,” a $400,000 feature to be shot entirely in Poland. Filmers have their eyes on this uneasy cooperation between the French giant’s Polish subsid and TVP, which has budgeted a $35 million film this year, the biggest ever. Canal Plus hopes to win Polish hearts and minds by investing in strictly local pix.

PolSat, which pledged to invest several million dollars in features this year, has yet to take the plunge. This has irritated some industryites, especially private producers who have been given short shrift by a less-than-helpful Film Ministry under Tadeusz Scibor-Rylski.

For now, no state coin can go to private producers, even though the practice has been saving the industry these past four years. Private producers now must form joint ventures with one of the state film studios, such as Zodiac, Perspectywa, Zebra or Tor.

Ministry of Culture apparatchiks outside the Film Ministry view the private side of the industry with suspicion. They’ve taken refuge in a 10-year-old law, passed during the Communist era, prohibiting private patronage to gain control of the state film industry. This strategy benefits pubcaster TVP, which now stands to completely take over Polish filming.

Some directors – such as Zebra’s Juliusz Machulski, who had several local hits in the ’80s – are content to work on TV series that ad coin are making affordable for TVP. His current series, “Wives and Lovers,” is one of the biggest budget productions of ’95. Younger directors also are looking more to TV for their start rather than going the traditional state studio route.

Some of the 26 pix on TVP’s 1995 slate:

*”Provocateur” (directed by Krzysztof Lang), a turn-of-the-century drama about an anti-czarist Polish terrorist. Co-produced with the U. K and Czech Republic.

* “Playing the Plate” (Jan Jakub Kolski), a fairy tale about love between two changelings.

* “The Seventh Dwelling” (Marta Meszaros), biopic of Dutch-Jewish philosopher Edith Stein. A co-production with Hungary and Italy.

* “Colonel Kwatkowski” (Kazimierz Kutz), a post-World War II comedy about a doctor posing as a security service officer.

* “The Germans” (Zbigniew Kaminski), based on Leon Kruczkowski’s play about intellectuals in Nazi Germany.

* “Bandit” (Maciej Dejczer), about a Brit sent to a Romanian kids’ hospital.

* “Nothing to Laugh At” (Marek Koterski), a black comedy about a Polish washout.

* “Shanghai Hotel” (Filip Bajon), set in a cosmopolitan hotel before World War II, from Vicki Baum’s novel.

* “Ubu the King” (Piotr Szulkin), a contempo reworking of Alfred Jarry’s play.

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