Juliusz Machulski’s farcical comedy “Superproduction” perhaps makes cinema history by turning its film critic central character into the object of sympathy, even as it giddily — and often unevenly — pokes fun at the film biz. Pic has already racked up handsome returns in Poland, and is rolling out theatrically Stateside before DVD release. In-crowd references to the Polish film scene will fly over foreign heads, but the more general spoofing will lightly amuse buffs.
Machulski and co-writer Jaroslaw Sokol are merciless in going after everyone from crooked producers and the press to hopelessly untalented thesps. Also in the filmmakers’ target range is a recent tendency for Polish films to mimic Hollywood style. Yet “Superproduction” itself is a blatantly commercial movie in the mode of Blake Edwards’ more astringent projects, slickly produced and chock-full of whiz-bang optical effects. The unfortunate result is the pot calling the kettle black, and not seeming to realize it.
After film critic Yanek (Rafal Krolikowski) has to sit through another bad pic, he’s verbally assaulted by an overbearing TV chatshow host for being too critical, leading Yanek to ponder, “Why can’t we make films as good as the Chinese, Iranians or Czechs?”
Meanwhile, after eliminating some competition, Jedrzej (Piotr Fronczewski), a Mafia-type mob boss, feels driven to finance a movie to appease his ditsy g.f. Donata’s (Anna Przybylska) pathetic movie-star aspirations. In one of the comedy’s least convincing ruses, Jedrzej takes a meeting with Yanek and deceives him into signing a contract to write the script for his pet project.
Fatuous producer Dzidek (Janusz Rewinski) and director Bartek (Krzysztof Globisz) are under Jedrzej’s thumb, so they’re compelled to hop onboard the $50 million superproduction, an outrageous sum by Polish standards. Quickly, Donata proves impossible to direct as the love interest, leading to Bartek’s departure and Yanek assuming the helm. Still, it isn’t Yanek’s inexperience that leads to more comic mishaps, but rather everyone around him, climaxing in a ludicrous summit of international criminals that proves the comeuppance of host Jedrzej.
While the tone remains amiably light, the comic and visual approaches render a confused picture. Shifts are roughly handled between broader and more human-scaled humor (latter is especially well managed by Krolikowski, who makes the fact Yanek lives at home with his mom a point of affection rather than ridicule). That Yanek ends up going to Hollywood as credits roll feels like a cynical coda attached to a narrative in an unresolved love-hate relationship with both art cinema and blockbuster entertainments.
Among several vet Polish actors, Magda Schejbal stands out as Marysia, Yanek’s best pal at his newspaper and his only ally on the set. Polish film fans will chuckle at the insider jokes, as well as the brief presence of Wajda favorite Krystyna Janda playing an acting coach.
Production package isn’t quite super but extremely pro.