Shot in May ’95, 10 months before his death, “Krzysztof Kieslowski: I’m So-So … ” is an interesting hour spent in the celebrated Polish director’s company, but it doesn’t do extra duty as a thorough docu on his life and films. This portrait of a great artist “in the waiting room of life” (as one observer puts it) would fit easily into tube skeds as an appetizer to showings of his pics, but is likely to leave hard-core Kieslowski buffs hungry for something more substantial.
Director Krzysztof Wierzbicki, who worked with Kieslowski as his assistant from 1972, as well as making his own docus, starts intriguingly with various specialists (a doctor, graphologist, etc.) drawing profiles of Kieslowski from his medical records, handwriting and so on. Things then settle down into a straight-arrow run through his life and selected movies, as Kieslowski chats with Wierzbicki in a variety of settings. At the time of the shoot, Kieslowski had just announced his intention to retire from filmmaking.
Helmer recalls how he was bullied by his father, didn’t enjoy school, and studied film direction only as a way to get into his first love, stage directing. It took him three goes to get into the film school in Lodz, a town in which life, he recalls, was totally gray. His earlier films were more political, he says, because he thought he could influence things. “I didn’t realize then that communism could destroy itself.”
Though the conversations are relaxed, there’s none of the complicity of old friends reminiscing on an equal level that would have given the docu a special flavor. Kieslowski’s answers to Wierzbicki’s mostly general or philosophical questions are expertly managed and for the most part evasive, with the enigma of a great artist carefully preserved. The filmmaker’s intellectually playful approach is never challenged by his compliant interviewer.
His business, says Kieslowski, is “not knowing,” rather than knowing. Comments on the films themselves are rare: About “The Decalogue,” he says simply , “We wanted to brush up those 10 well-known sentences.” In a rare glimpse of the man’s soul, he describes the future as “a black hole — it frightens me.” The U.S. comes in for special drubbing for its “pursuit of empty talk, combined with a high degree of satisfaction.”
Clips are OK but fairly brief, with nothing from either “Camera Buff” or “The Double Life of Veronique,” and his trilogy repped by only a snatch of “Three Colors: Red.”