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The Ballad of the Windshield Washers

(Polish and Italian dialogue)

Zygmunt ..... Olek Mincer Justyna ..... Agata Buzek Rafal ..... Kim Rossi Stuart Pawel ..... Andrzej Grabowski Helena ..... Grazyna Wolszak Irina ..... Eljana Nikolova Popova Marchetto ..... Marco Lucarelli Marcolino ..... Gabriele Bocciarelli The Pope ..... Stefan Burczyk Janusz ..... Romuald Andrzej Klos

(Polish and Italian dialogue)

Realism and fantasy make uneasy bedfellows in this oddity about members of a Polish family in Rome in the late ’80s. Peter Del Monte, a director whose films in the past have been maddeningly uneven in quality, can’t engender a great deal of interest in his often unconvincing characters, and the unexpectedly downbeat ending won’t help the film find bookings in many territories.

Janusz (Romuald Andrzej Klos) is the head of an extended family of Polish emigres who arrive in Rome, find cheap lodgings and set about finding menial work while they await visas that will allow them to move on to a new life in Canada. Family members include Janusz’s slightly deranged brother, Zygmunt (Olek Mincer); his son, Rafal (Kim Rossi Stuart); his companion, Helena (Grazyna Wolszak); and Helena’s attractive daughter, Justyna (Agata Buzek). The men find work cleaning the windshields of cars stuck in Rome’s notorious traffic jams; Justyna is employed as a nanny to a small, sick child.

Not long after their arrival, Janusz disappears, never to be seen again. Rafal is certain his father is dead; Zygmunt, now thoroughly disturbed, wanders aimlessly about the city and begins to see visions of the Pope, with whom he has long conversations.

During the course of his work, Janusz meets an attractive Bulgarian woman, Irina (Eljana Nikolova Popova), who invites him to stay with her in her apartment; but just as his happiness seems assured, he becomes involved in a ludicrously amateurish and bungled robbery involving a valuable pedigreed pig and, as a result, becomes wanted for murder.

Justyna, too, meets an unfortunate fate when she attracts the attention of a couple of rapists. But none of this rings very true, because these beleaguered Poles seem to exist only as fictional constructs, never as flesh-and-blood characters facing the problem of survival in an alien environment.

Technical credits are efficient.

The Ballad of the Windshield Washers


Production: A Mikado release of a P.F.A. Films production, in collaboration with RAI Cinemafiction. Produced by Pier Francesco Aiello. Directed by Peter Del Monte. Screenplay, Peter Del Monte, Sergio Bazzini, Dominik Wieczorkowski, loosely based on the novel "The Polish Car Window Cleaner" by E. Albinati.

Crew: Camera (Cinecitta color), Pasquale Mari; editor, Roberto Missiroli; music, Dario Lucantoni; production designer, Anna Maria Donatella Sciveres; costume designer, Paola Marchesin; sound (Dolby SR), Candido Raini; assistant director, Umberto Riccioni. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (noncompeting), Sept. 10, 1998. Running time: 93 MIN.

With: Zygmunt ..... Olek Mincer Justyna ..... Agata Buzek Rafal ..... Kim Rossi Stuart Pawel ..... Andrzej Grabowski Helena ..... Grazyna Wolszak Irina ..... Eljana Nikolova Popova Marchetto ..... Marco Lucarelli Marcolino ..... Gabriele Bocciarelli The Pope ..... Stefan Burczyk Janusz ..... Romuald Andrzej Klos

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