Jerzy Skolimowski

Jerzy Skolimowski

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Eastern Promises Review


Excellent
We're in London and the streets look like they are owned and operated by Beelzebub himself. The ghosts of the KGB death squads loom in the distance, but the Russian crime syndicate's stranglehold over the hoods and alleys is as strong as ever. Out of one of these decrepit alleyways crawls a 14-year-old girl who walks into a pharmacy only moments before hemorrhaging from the baby girl inside her. Her death is announced at the same time as her daughter's birth. Welcome to the decaying London of David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises.

A master at the ancient art of phantom punching, Cronenberg's examination of the Russian mafia's sex trade, currently flourishing in London, doesn't hit you till you're a good quarter mile out of the theater, as you're still contemplating Viggo Mortensen's slicked-back hairdo. Like a cccwolf right before the hunt, Mortensen snarls and calmly stalks as Nikolai, the driver for a sect of the elusive crime syndicate Vory V Zakone, a specter that arose from the ashes of Stalin's work camps. Nikolai works for Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and Semyon's volatile son Kirill (Vincent Cassel), taking care of their transportation and their criminal refuse. When Nikolai snaps off the fingers of a corpse, he asks Kirill and his business associate Azim (Mina E. Mina) to leave... but the audience is allowed to stay.

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Circle Of Deceit Review


Excellent
It takes a virtuoso to set a love story in war-torn Beirut, but if anyone is up to the task it's going to be Volker Schlöndorff, the master behind The Tin Drum and other fine fare. With Bruno Ganz and Fassbinder regular Hanna Schygulla running the show, an even wider safety net is laid out -- Schlöndorff's story is emotional and earnest, beautifully composed, and full of thought: both about the horrors of modern warfare and the horrors of love.

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Before Night Falls Review


Weak
Is there a rule that all biopics must begin at birth and end at death? Death I can understand, but the actions of a three-month old just don't seem of much relevance to any story, regardless of how important the subject is.

Alas, the subject of Before Night Falls is likely not a name you'll be familiar with anyway, but there he is, a speechless little boy playing in a pit dug in the ground. As it turns out, Reinaldo Arenas was an acclaimed Cuban author, and I have to take the press notes' word on that, as I've never heard of the guy. His life certainly appears to have been filled with adventure and tragedy, as many Cuban lives undoubtedly have been. Outcast as a youth for his interest in writing and his predilection for the male gender, Arenas was persecuted, imprisoned, exiled, and infected (apparently with AIDS, though it's never really specified). And all the while he just wants to write his poetry and novels. Perhaps the best scene in the film has Arenas floating in escape from one round in prison, his manuscript tied to his waist in a plastic bag.

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Knife in the Water Review


Extraordinary
Before he got all famous with movies like Rosemary's Baby and The Pianist, Roman Polanski created Knife in the Water, his first feature film.

Water is a small but incredibly engaging movie, taking place during a day trip on a Polish lake. In the film, upscale couple Andrzej and Krystyna (Leon Niemczyk and Jolanta Umecka) drive out to the marina to take a little ride on the water, picking up a tenacious, beefcake hitchhiker (Zygmunt Malanowicz, whose character is unnamed in the film) and letting him go along on the trip. Andrzej goes to outrageous lengths to belittle his passenger, as the two men obliquely battle for the attention of Krystyna. It all comes to a head with Andrzej pushing the non-swimming blonde kid into the water, right after tossing his beloved knife into the drink. And there's more to come after that.

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Jerzy Skolimowski

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