The Entropy of Jerzy Skolimowski

There is something gloriously disgraceful about a filmmaker pushing eighty, making the type of film you would expect from a twenty year old. But then again, Jerzy Skolimowski has always done things to the beat of his own drum. For much of the 1990s he was an outsider in Hollywood; a painter with an illustrious filmmaking past who was always game for oddball cameos in blockbusters, like Mars Attacks (1996) or The Avengers (2012). Rather than bristle, Skolimowski revelled in the irony of a Pole with a dissident past making ends meet playing stock Russian types, as in Cronenberg's Eastern Promises (2007). Skolimowski has always tried his hand at new techniques, even with his first films, and it’s one of the many reasons why his work has stood out and stood the test of time. Whilst Identification Marks: None was notable for its dramatic structure (the action in the film is concentrated into that of a single day) Walkover demonstrates Skolimowski’s formal concerns (the action plays out in a sequence of masterfully choreographed long takes). Barrier goes even further as plot takes a back seat, while imaginative use of locations and an almost collage like approach to set design make Skolimowski’s third film one of the most visually striking of the 1960s, and earns him the title of ‘Godard of the East’. Barrier too, along with the three films featuring Skolimowski's alter ego, Andrzej Leszczyc, is a testament to the relative artistic freedom that followed the election of Władysław Gomułka as First Secretary of the Polish Communist Party as well as to the cultural inertia during the so-called period of stabilisation. If Wajda's Man of Iron (1981) is the definitive film about the emergence of the Solidarity free trade union then Skolimowski's Moonlighting presents a very different picture of Polish life during the days leading up to the declaration of Martial Law.

Jerzy Skolimowski’s latest, 11 Minutes, is at once an art-house, action and deconstructed disaster story. Typical ‘Hollywood’ style is pushed to such an extreme, that by the end of the film it is completely abstract. Speaking of Strangers On A Train (1951), Hitchcock characterised his film as a ‘beautiful pattern’, one that could be analysed forever. Similarly, 11 Minutes presents not so much several plots as a painterly array of visual echoes, or rather pre-echoes, all of which inevitably converge in a spectacular, catastrophic fashion. It’s a serialist city symphony, whereby a recurring series of both aural and visual elements are ordered through carefully orchestrated direction and meticulous editing into a unified whole. It is the fullest expression of Skolimowski’s resounding visual approach to filmmaking.

by Daniel Bird

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