Monday, 28 September 2009

Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water

Updated with more links - Oct 1, at 08.30

Sequence 1 from Nóż w wodzie/Knife in the Water (Roman Polanski, 1962)

Two magisterial sequences furnish today's Film Studies For Free offering. They come from one of FSFF's author's favourite films (and perhaps her favourite film to teach): Knife in the Water (Nóż w wodzie, Poland 1962), the first full-length feature film directed
by Roman Polanski and co-written by him (inter alia, with Jerzy Skolimowski; the music is by jazz composer Krzysztof Komeda, with saxophone played by Bernt Rosengren; the actors are Zygmunt Malanowicz as the boy, Jolanta Umecka as Krystyna, and Leon Niemczyk as Andrzej, the husband).

These two sequences do far more than simply hint at a directorial greatness that would only come later. Rather, they show ample evidence from the beginning of his career as to just why, FSFF humbly opines, this director mightily deserved a life-time achievement award for his cinematic oeuvre
. As Peter Bradshaw wrote of Knife in the Water, to mark a 2004 retrospective of the director's work:
The raw talent of this film is still obvious, as it was to landmark Paramount producer Robert Evans ("I loved the little Polack!"), who sponsored Polanski's Hollywood career and, in movies such as Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, brought to full flower his extraordinary ability to create menace. It's all here, clenched like a fist.
By the way, if you are surfing the internet from the US or Canada you can watch this film online and in full for free, for the next month, courtesy of The Auteurs. Just click here. FSFF couldn't recommend it more highly.

Today, following news of Polanski's arrest in Switzerland, pending the processing of an extradition request by US attorneys, Zurich Film Festival president Debra Winger stood publicly in solidarity with Polanski: "We stand by and wait for his release and his next masterwork", she said.

FSFF is proud to line up beside Winger and with some of the others who have spoken out for Polanski's release. But please see here, here, here, and Richard Brody's hugely compelling 'Polanski Redux' (last link added Oct. 1) for opinions about some of the many complications of the current extradition case; these continue to provoke at least ambivalence, for plenty of us ('romantic auteurist') admirers of Polanski's films, about what should be the final legal outcome (given that Polanski pled guilty to his 1978 rape charge, he has continued to argue, albeit in absentia and unsuccessfully, that the original conviction against him was unsound due to "judicial and prosecutorial misconduct", and his victim has requested that the case now be dropped, so as not to cause any further damage to her and her family).

Here, in honour of Polanski's work for the cinema and in the hope of a rapid and proper processing of the current charges against him for all those directly affected, are some FSFF links to discussions of his first film.

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