One Night with Skolimowski

One Night with Skolimowski

It's film festival high season in town at the moment, with the Indian Film Festival and COLCOA French film week just concluded and the 10th Annual Polish Film Festival Los Angeles presently underway. Although space limitations in this week's print edition prevented me from commenting on the latter there, that is by no means intended to diminish the value of this year's program, which includes tonight's overdue local premiere of Four Nights with Anna, the first new film in 17 years by Jerzy Skolimowski.

In the '60s and '70s, Skolimowski created an international stir with his early directorial efforts Walkover and Barrier, before moving on to a series of highly original English-language films, including the 1970 Deep End,

which traced the ill-fated romance between a shy teenage boy working in

a London bathhouse and the female co-worker he admires, obsessively,

from afar. But following the critical and commercial disappointments of Torrents of Spring (1989) and 30 Door Key (1991), Skolimowski settled into a self-imposed filmmaking hiatus, during which he painted and took occasional acting work (including as Naomi Watts' uncle in David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises). "I had the feeling that the movies were making me instead of me making the movies," Skolimowski said at the opening press conference of last year's Directors Fortnight in Cannes, where Four Nights with Anna had its world premiere, before impishly adding: "To my friends, I'm back. And to my enemies, I'm back." 

There's no question that Skolimowski is fully in the driver's seat for Anna, a meticulously realized bookend of sorts to Deep End in which an introverted hospital morgue

worker (played by the superb Polish stage actor Artur Steranko) expresses his growing affection for a beautiful nurse by breaking into

her apartment while she sleeps and spending four successive nights by

her side. That potentially creepy scenario is brought off by

Skolimowski with surprising tenderness and perverse humor. Not soon to be

forgotten: the image of a dead cow floating down a river under a bleak

midwinter's light. Four Nights with Anna screens tonight at 9 PM at Laemmle's Sunset 5 theater, with Skolimowski and co-screenwriter Ewa Piaskowska in person.

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