In 1999, Polish director Andrzej Wajda received an Honorary Academy Award® for his body of work—more than thirty-five feature films, beginning with A Generation in 1955. Wajda’s second film, Kanal—the first ever made about the Warsaw uprising—secured him the Special Jury Prize at Cannes and started him on the path to international acclaim, secured with the release of his masterpiece, Ashes and Diamonds, in 1958. These three groundbreaking films ushered in the “Polish School” movement and later became known as the “War Trilogy.” But each boldly stands on its own—testaments to the resilience of the human spirit, the struggle for personal and national freedom, and Wajda’s unique contribution to his homeland and to world cinema.

 

   
A Generation        Kanal       Ashes and Diamonds

 


 

(aka 'A Generation')

directed by Andrzej Wajda
Poland 1955

 

  Stach is a wayward teen living in squalor on the outskirts of Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Guided by an avuncular communist organizer, Stach is introduced to the underground resistance—and to the beautiful Dorota. Soon he is engaged in dangerous efforts to fight oppression and indignity, maturing as he assumes responsibility for other’s lives. A coming-of-age story of survival and shattering loss, A Generation delivers a brutal portrait of the human cost of war.

Posters

Theatrical Release: January 26th, 1955 - Poland

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DVD Review: Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC

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Only Available in the Andrzej Wajda "Three War Films" boxset

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 283  - Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 1:27:03 
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.86 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Poland (Dolby Digital 1.0) 
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion / Home Vision

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Andrzej Wajda: On Becoming a Filmmaker, an exclusive interview with the director and film critic Jerzy Plazewski
• Ceramics from Ilza, Wajda’s 1951 film school short
• Rare behind-the-scenes production photos, publicity stills, and posters
• Restoration demonstration
• 20-page liner notes booklet with new essay by film scholar Ewa Mazierska

DVD Release Date: April 26th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 15

 

 

Comments:

The oldest and most damaged of the three films, it still shows some good shadow detail and film grain as well as segments of multiple light scratches. Its a little soft at times. Audio was a little inconsistent, but acceptable. I watched this one first and got a sense of the director's style (I had never seen a Wajda film before). It is marked by a visual style of deeply imbedded political comments - both subtle and verbose - but never preachy. Much of the black and white cinematography reminded me of Film noir, although I am unaware of any intended links. I am still going through the extensive extras, but am especially enjoying the Wajda interviews (one on each disc).

Gary W. Tooze

 





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(aka 'Canal" or "Kanał" or "Kanal" or "They Loved Life')

directed by Andrzej Wajda
Poland 1957

 

  “Watch them closely, for these are the last hours of their lives,” announces a narrator, foreboding the tragedy that unravels as a war-ravaged company of Home Army resistance fighters escape the Nazi onslaught through the city’s sewers. Determined to survive, the men and women slog through the hellish labyrinth, piercing the darkness with the strength of their individual spirits. Based on true events, Kanal was the first film ever made about the Warsaw uprising and the first to bring Wajda to the attention of international audiences, earning the Special Jury Prize in Cannes in 1957.

Posters

Theatrical Release: April 20th, 1957

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DVD Review: Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

   

Only Available in the Andrzej Wajda "Three War Films" boxset

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 284  - Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 1:36:36 
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.37 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Polish (Dolby Digital 1.0) 
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Criterion / Home Vision

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Andrzej Wajda: On Kanal, an exclusive interview with the director, assistant director Janusz Morgenstern, and film critic Jerzy Plazewski
• Rare behind-the-scenes production photos, publicity stills, and posters
• 16-page liner notes booklet with essay by film critic John Simon

DVD Release Date: April 26th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 14

 

 

Comments:

This film has a wonderful honest feel about it. If I was to compare this Wajda film to any other director it might be a similar method of expression as an Anthony Mann or even John Ford - with totally unpretentious (if obvious) development and very even pacing/build. I became aware of his wonderful utilization of characters within the frame - often one in foreground, one in rear - communicating but not looking at each other (almost Bergman-esque!). Again (as in A Generation) I was reminded of Film Noir - perhaps for the one-dimensional characters unified by angst toward a singular circumstance. I really enjoyed this film - a definite one worth repeat viewings.

The DVD showed some wear in the opening credits but settled in nicely. I observed in a couple of instances that the subtitles moved quite rapidly - mostly though it was quite readable. I saw some flickering, but only on two occasions - otherwise - super grey tones, film grain and a relatively sharp image. Great visible subtitles. The original audio had no noticeable fluctuations.  Insightful extras! NOTE: I especially appreciate the liner notes booklets that are included with each film. Great stuff!

We hope to compare this to the earlier Facets Video edition, and suspect the Criterion will be far superior.

Gary W. Tooze

 





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(aka 'Ashes and Diamonds' or 'Popiół i diament')

directed by Andrzej Wajda
USA 1958

 

  On the last day of World War II in a small town somewhere in Poland, the Polish exiles of war and the occupying Soviet forces confront the beginning of a new day and a new Poland. From this incendiary environment emerges Home Army soldier Maciek Chelmicki. Chelmicki has now been ordered to assassinate an incoming commissar, but a mistake stalls his progress and introduces him to Krystyna, a beautiful barmaid who gives him a glimpse of what his life could be. Gorgeously photographed and brilliantly performed, Ashes and Diamonds masterfully interweaves the fate of a nation with that of one man, resulting in one of the most important Polish films of all time.

Posters

Theatrical Release: October 3rd, 1958 - Poland

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DVD Review: Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

   

Only Available in the Andrzej Wajda "Three War Films" boxset

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 285  - Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 1:42:44 
Video 1.66:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.3 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Polish (Dolby Digital 1.0) 
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Criterion / Home Vision

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.66:1

Edition Details:

• Andrzej Wajda: On Ashes and Diamonds, an exclusive interview with the director, second director Janusz Morgenstern, and film critic Jerzy Plazewski
• Audio commentary by film scholar Annette Insdorf
• Vintage newsreel on the making of Ashes and Diamonds
• Rare behind-the-scenes production photos, publicity stills, and posters
• 16-page liner notes booklet with essay by film scholar Paul Coates

DVD Release Date: April 26th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 20

 

 

Comments:

Back in my youth, Ashes and Diamonds was one of those movies which defined a generation -- it was a symbol of our generation; part of the revolt (along with beat-poetry and Bob Dylan) against the stodgy middle-class, religion-ridden world of our parents.
The introduction of directors such as Wajda to a new and wider audience is of course one of the great benefits of DVD. (Thanks Anthony!)

****

Wonderfully strong film that requires some work and patience. I, again, thoroughly enjoyed. I'm so glad I was able to see all of these films (thank you Criterion!) especially so close together. I got a real feel of the 'Polish school' with one of its icon directors.

The 1.66 widescreen is accurate and I love Wajd's use of it. Excellent contrast. The film has some dark moments that don't appear to have any manipulations.  I've always enjoyed Annette Insdorf's remarks and although I have not had a chance to indulge in this commentary yet, I expect this will be as insightful and enlightening as her previous. I look forward to it. Overall a fantastic boxset by the great Criterion. Hallelujah! 

Gary W. Tooze

 





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