This year I chose two films based on last year’s Polish film Before Twilight (5*) about a retirement home for aging stage and film stars, and how the “Big Shark’s” arrival propels his fellow thespians, et al, to embark on a soul-fulfilling escapade. I was well rewarded.
The Reverse is a film noir black comedy set in the early 1950s. Thirty-year-old shy, modest Sabina’s mom and eccentric grandma are fixated on finding her a good man now that WW II has ended. Sabina invites a poet home and discovers he is married; her mom arranges a tea with an accountant but he gives mom a fright, causing her to toss the tray she is carrying so her final verdict is “idiot.” The three are also apprehensive about a new dictate to turn in all gold coins to the authorities. Then one night a handsome, mysterious man comes to Sabina’s rescue; Bronislaw guilefully woos her and nothing in her, or the trios’ lives is quite the same ever after.
In Venice war breaks out in 1939, cruelly squashing 11-years-old Marek’s dream of a summer holiday to Venice, Italy. His parents decide he will be safest with aunt Veronica at her countryside villa, where other relatives soon arrive to wait out what they think will be a short war. Months later the basement where Marek plays with his Venetian cutouts floods and that in turn sparks his ingenuity. Not impeded but rather helped by family members asunder, they enthusiastically create an illusory dreamscape that feeds and fortifies their imagination and hope in defiance of their daily harsh existence.
The Reverse and Venice are precise in all elements: plot, sub-plots that tie back into the main story, strong camera work, meticulous editing (in Reverse we go back and forth between 1950 [black & white] and the present [color] at times so subtly it takes the eye some seconds to recognize the shift), able sound and film coloring, demonstrative music, attention to detail (note the number of historical consultants in Venice’s end credits) et al. The Reverse was awarded the FIPRESCI at the Warsaw International Film Festival, a Bronze Frog at Camerimage and the Golden Lion at the Gdynia Polish Film Festival, while this year Venice was shown within the special section – Focus on Poland – at the Reykjavik International Film Festival as well as awarded for the Best Artistic Contribution at the Montreal World Film Festival. Polish moviemakers’ love of film is apparent in their work and that translates to a “don’t miss” movie.