CUL-DE-SAC (Roman Polanski, 1966)

Roman Polanski recently won the directorial prize at Berlin for his exhilarating, humane The Ghost Writer (2009); but more than forty years ago a film of his took the top prize, the Golden Bear, at the same international film festival. This was the British Cul-de-sac, Polanski’s second, black-and-white film after exiting Communist Poland.      Two wounded […]

THE LAMP (Roman Polanski, 1959)

Lampa is a student film that Roman Polanski has somewhat disowned on grounds he hasn’t chosen to reveal. It is nonetheless one of his most haunting works—and a clear influence on Steven Soderbergh’s best film, Bubble (2006).      The title refers to the kerosene lamp by which a toymaker meticulously works in his shop, which is […]

WHEN ANGELS FALL (Roman Polanski, 1959)

Not until the end of Gdy spadają anioły, Roman Polanski’s graduation film for Poland’s national film school, do we realize that the aerial-view in on roofs is an angel’s-eye view of Earth. Who doubts that Wim Wenders and Claire Denis, co-directors of Wings of Desire (1987), had seen Polanski’s film, although their film shows Berlin, […]

SSAKI (Roman Polanski, 1962)

Co-written by Andrzej Kondratiuk, Roman Polanski’s beauteous comical silent Mammals, ten minutes long, crosses Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Polanski’s own The Fat and the Lean (1961), tossing in another Absurdist inspiration, the myth of Sisyphus, as well as a brief parody of Maciek’s lumbering animal death in Andrzej Wajda’s Ashes and Diamonds (1958). […]