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Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema

As the city continues to be swept up in World Cup fever, TIFF is offering their own international counter programming, as continuing this month is Martin Scorsese’s selection of Polish cinematic masterpieces.

With only a week to go, there are still a group of captivating and heralded films to catch before the series concludes, but the last week offers up quite the variety of stories, from the smart to the absurd, from the beautiful to the deadly.

With that, here are your welcome alternatives to summer blockbusters, formulaic sequels, and annual genre fare.

The Saragossa Manuscript – June 27

We start off with something a little bit different, but also incredibly influential. This jarring, absurdist drama follows a story within a story among many other narrative intersections and interruptions. The line between reality and fantasy, between being awake and dreaming slowly fades into oblivion when two enemy officers discover a curious book about a Spanish adventurer. Beloved by Scorcese among many others, The Saragossa Manuscript is pure madness, entertaining and spellbinding, and probably best enjoyed by those in a certain frame of mind. That is, you have to be willing to completely let go and devolve into anarchic chaos.

Knights of the Black Cross – June 28, 5:15pm

This one may be more familiar and certainly more accessible to most, as this epic medieval tale is one of Poland’s most cherished and noteworthy films in history. It is truly an epic in every sense of the word, with sprawling scenes, excesses of music, color, and revelry, heightened drama, and of course, massive battles. What’s more, we have kidnapping, revenge, revolt, a damsel in distress, a valiant hero, boundless love, and just as important, a booming score.

Blind Chance – June 29, 63:15pm

It’s a story that may be familiar to some, as it’s been done many times in American films, but it’s executed here to perfection by director Krysztof Kieslowski. It’s the notion of sliding doors, of sorts, as here we have a young and affluent man taking a break from medical school and heading to Warsaw. He attempts to catch a train, and in that moment, the film diverges into three separate scenarios detailing the fate of this young man. Thought-provoking and more than a little bit jarring, Blind Chance is among the best versions of many crafted and attempted metaphysical stories.

A Short Film About Killing – July 1, 6:30pm

Taken from ‘The Decalogue,’ director Krzystof Kieslowski’s collection of ten short films tangentially following the Ten Commandments, A Short Film About Killing is an expanded version of the series fifth installment. It’s an incredibly smart and compelling narrative, one that follows three different characters as their lives intersect and includes a rather brutal act of violence. And that violence of course, begets violence, in a film with a powerful message. What’s more, it’s visually aggravating, as greens and yellows are cast throughout.

Winning the Priz du Jury at the Cannes Film Festival, it made Kieslowski an international name – and it’s one you should know too.

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.