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Polish Cinema Classics Volume II

Promised Land (1974)                           Illumination (1973)


Escape From Liberty Cinema (1990)


A second volume of our acclaimed series. Second Run DVD proudly presents three celebrated works of Polish Cinema, now fully restored and released for the first time ever in the UK.

Andrzej Wajda PROMISED LAND (Ziemia obiecana, 1974)
Voted the best film in the history of Polish cinema in the monthly Polish magazine FILM, Wajda's Oscar-nominated epic Promised Land is a wry, incisive, shocking and elegantly realised Dickensian tale of greed, human cruelty, exploitation and betrayal.

Krzysztof Zanussi - ILLUMINATION (Iluminacja, 1973)
Zanussi's philosophical/scientific exploration of man's place in the world. Illumination serves as an idiosyncratic, engaging, and insightful fusion of science and art, precision and creativity, intellect and emotion.

Wojciech Marczewski - ESCAPE FROM 'LIBERTY' CINEMA (Ucieczka z kina 'Wolnosc', 1990)
Marczewski's engaging anti-communist satire (with shades of Keaton's Sherlock, Jr. and Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo) is a darkly comic, complex, allusive and deeply-felt examination of the nature and effects of censorship, directed by one of Poland's leading intellectual - and much censored - filmmakers.

(aka "Ziemia obiecana" )

 

directed by Andrzej Wajda
Poland 1974

 

Three broke but ambitious young men to take charge of their own destinies and found their own textile factory in industrial Lodz. Polish aristocrat Karol Borowiecki (Daniel Olbrychski, THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING), German son of a textiles magnate Maks Baum (Andrzej Seweryn, ON THE SILVER GLOBE), and Jewish money broker Moryc Welt (Wojciech Pszoniak, THE TIN DRUM) decide to go in together and found their own textile factory. The trio outsmart and bankrupt their competition (who were already self-destructing before they came on the scene), and withstand tempting offers by others to betray one another; however, their own arrogance may prove their undoing.

Andrzej Wajda's epic-yet-intimate adaptation of Wadyslaw Reymont's tale of dehumanization in the industrial age THE PROMISED LAND (released both theatrically in its near three-hour length and on television as a four-part miniseries at a near four-hour running time) is fairly straightforward in terms of plot – even mundane in the way its trio of main characters are subject to the usual vices – but more interesting in its depiction of the central trio’s amorality in the social context of Polish society during this period and their individual backgrounds. They set themselves apart by rejecting tradition and heritage. Karol convinces his father to sell their country estate and move to the city along with his kind fiancee Anka (Anna Nehrebecka, FAMILY LIFE) who is betraying with Lucy (Kalina Jedrusik,
THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE), wife of industrialist Zucker (Jerzy Nowak, SCHINDLER'S LIST). Maks has no plans to succeed his father (Kazimierz Opalinski, THE SARAGOSSA MANUSCRIPT) and leans on him to sell the factory (which is on the verge of collapse because his father would rather continue to borrow money than fire more workers). Moryc secures his portion of the needed funds by double-crossing old contacts. It is also interesting just how not unlike their predecessors the young men turn out to be. Maks' father slips into depression and the into madness as his factory collapses, and Maks - who is less ambitious than Karol or Moryc, preferring wine and women and seeing the business as a means to that end - feels pangs of conscience not only over what he has done to his father but also what he knows about Karol's betrayal of Anka. Karol declines to help a desperate factory owner - also Polish and aristocratic like himself - who refuses to torch his own factory and considers it beneath him to borrow money from fellow factory owner Mueller (Franciszek Pieczka, THE DELUGE). When construction of the factory is halted, Karol similarly is too proud to borrow from Mueller, even though the older man is more willing to help him (with an eye on marrying him to his addlepated daughter Mada [Bozena Dykiel, MAN OF IRON]). During the labored construction of the factory, Moryc fusses over the expenses and complains that what Karol is building is more like a palace than a factory (similarly, Mueller has spent millions on a grand manor house that sits empty since he prefers to live with his wife and daughter in their older house on the factory property). The building of their factory is to coincide with new social programs to help the workers and their starving families (displaced as more of the factories go bankrupt and their owners torch them for insurance or commit suicide rather than face disgrace). The trio trade on the idea of Polish Karol as the president of the company since the textile trade in Lodz being mainly the domain of the Jews and the Germans; the latter perceived as having been abusive to the Polish workers (although Karol has been treated rather well by textile baron Bucholz [Andrzej Szalawski, NO END] due to his aristocratic heritage, and Karol himself proves rather ruthless on the factory floor). The decision made by Karol in the final scene over how to deal with striking workers makes him a worthy successor to Bucholz. Subplots include the sexual exploitation by a young female factory worker by a foreman, the trials of a widow whose husband was gruesomely killed in a machinery accident, and the ways in which Karol's ambitions and libido complicate his business life.

THE PROMISED LAND went largely unseen elsewhere due to criticisms of anti-Semitism levied against the film. While the film certainly does present the usual negative stereotypes about Jewish people and money (and money lending) - and Moryc casts aside any sense of social graces when the subject of money comes up - it could be argued that the Polish and German capitalist characters are generally portrayed in no more positive light. The workers and peasants are the only characters aside from Anka and Maks’ father portrayed consistently in a sympathetic manner (Karol’s father is more upset at the thought of his son bringing a Jewish money lender’s daughter into the family than of his betrayal of Anka). In 2000, Wajda prepared a shorter director's cut of the film - with a brand new 5.1 mix - in an attempt to address these charges; however, he has since disavowed this cut in favor of the original theatrical cut.

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: 21 February 1975 (Poland)

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DVD Comparison:

Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for all the Screen Caps!

(Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

 

Distribution

Vanguard Cinema

Region 1 - NTSC

Second Run DVD
Region 0 - PAL
Runtime 2:18:10 (4% PAL speedup) 2:42:40 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

1.72:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.15 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.68:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.5 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

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

Bitrate:

 

Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut)

 

Bitrate:

 

Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2)

 

Audio Polish Dolby Digital 5.1

Polish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono

Subtitles English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Polish, Italian, none English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Vanguard Cinema

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.72:1

Edition Details:
• Interviews (in Polish with optional English subtitles):
• Interviews with director Andrzej Wajda (4:3; 14:55) and (4:3; 5:24), second unit director Andrzej
• Kotkowski (4:3; 8:13), critic Jerzy Plazewski (4:3; 3:44), actor Daniel Olbrychski (4:3; 6:28), actress Anna Nehrebecka (4:3; 2:38), production manager Barbara Pec-Slesica (4:3; 6:12), and
• cinematographer Witold Sobocinski (4:3; 2:41)
• Trailer (4:3; 1:37)
• Videoclip (4:3; 1:14)
• Letter from Steven Spielberg nominating Wajda for an Honorary Academy Award (4:3; 1:01)
• Oscar Ceremony Stills, Wadja Postage Stamps,
• Fanfare for Andrzej Wajda (0:18)
• Crew Biographies (Polish text), 'Beginning of a Wonderful Adventure' (Polish text), Why PROMISED
• LAND (Polish text), Historical Inspiration for the film (Polish text), Dynamite Film (Polish text),
• Director's Reminiscences (Polish text), Important Awards (Polish text). Andrzej Wajda on DVD (cover
• images), and Other DVDs (cover images)

DVD Release Date: October 28th, 2003
Amaray

Chapters 40

Release Information:
Studio: Second Run DVD

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.68:1

Edition Details:
• Interview with director Andrzej Wajda (16:9; 24:25)
• Liner Notes Booklet by David Thompson

 

DVD Release Date: 25 March 2013
Amaray in 3-disc Slipcase

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Second Run's dual-layer, HD-mastered transfer is a massive improvement over the Vanguard disc in terms of picture quality, framing, translation, and content. The Vanguard disc of the 2000 director's cut (now disavowed by Wajda in favor of the longer theatrical cut) offers more extras and a remixed (rather than upmixed) 5.1 soundtrack; however, it's PAL-converted, reframed (although more than SD anamorphic transfers of 1.66:1 films from the early 2000s were often reframed at something between the original aspect ratio and 1.78:1), is often too bright and hazy, and features an inferior, simplified English subtitle translation. The low bitrate for the 2+ hour film (however shortened it is from the original length) also does the Vanguard encode no favors (although the film is thoughtfully encoded with 40 chapters vs the standard 12 on the UK disc).

The extras on the Vanguard edition are more expansive but not necessarily better. There are two interviews with Wajda and several shorter interviews with cast and crew (presumably excerpted from some documentary or TV program) as well as a "videoclip" of the three leads singing on set. The interviews have English subtitles but the text extras are all in Polish only.

The Second Run disc, on the other hand, has a brand new interview with Wajda who provides a more expansive contextual history of the Lodz setting for the story and the various motivations than offered in the film. He regards THE PROMISED LAND as being his "American film" since it is about "real money". He also discusses his modifications to the story, including why he chose to end the film before the source novel's own conclusion. He also discusses the issues the censors had with the film (which had more to do with Wajda's reputation as the director of controversial films than with the content of the film itself). He also mentions that the first question when the film was screened in Los Angeles for the Oscar committee was about the cost of sets (not realizing that the city of Lodz had been almost frozen in time when the factories became unprofitable in the earlier half of the century, making it economical to shoot on location rather than try to recreate the settings).

Critic David Thompson's liner notes booklet (with some recollections by Wajda's former assistant turned director Andrzej Zulawski who recommended the source novel to Wajda) is also a fascinating read, providing more background on the source novel, the circumstances of the production, and the creation of the inferior director's cut (for which Wajda was lambasted by formerly-exiled fellow filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk) with some specifics of the alterations.

Presumably the longer mini-series version is (or has been) available in Poland.

- Eric Cotenas

 



DVD Menus
(
Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL - RIGHT)
 

 
 

 

 


 

Screen Captures

(Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL - BOTTOM)
Subtitle sample

 


(Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Second Run DVD (original cut and image quality)

Sound:

Draw

Extras: Second Run DVD
Menu: Second Run DVD

 


(aka "Ucieczka z kina 'Wolnosc'" )

 

directed by Wojciech Marczewski
Poland 1990

 

Just when it seems that the Polish citizens have finally stopped rebelling and adapted to the Communist regime, matter itself seems to have taken over the cause; and that is of particular concern for Lodz's local censor (Janusz Gajos, Kieslowski's WHITE) because the cast of a maudlin would-be tear-jerker titled DAYBREAK - playing at the Liberty Cinema - haven't just lost the plot, they've thrown it out wholesale. The aged professor (Wladyslaw Kowalski, LOVE AT TWENTY) refuses to die - and he doesn't "give a fuck" about his music students anymore - his daughter Malgorzata (Teresa Marczewska) bickers with her doctor husband (Jerzy Gudejko, THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE) who has just restored her sight, the nurse (Krystyna Tkacz) wishes she had not passed up a stage job for this small part, and the extras are no longer pretending to be blind. At first the censor is not worried since the film was passed by the Warsaw department, but the screenings at the Liberty are drawing protestors and miracle-seekers and the government is looking for a scapegoat. The censor begins a dialogue with the cast - including the actress who plays Malgorzata, who remembers him when he was an artist himself and on the film festival jury judging one of her first roles - but they remain defiant, even against the higher-ups (even

Directly inspired by Woody Allen's THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (footage of which Allen allowed the production to use free of charge) but couching the fantastical scenario in political realities of Poland, specifically the underhanded practices of the censorship office who were known to kill projects at the scripting stage, suppress good reviews of films whose subversive potential got past the script review, as well as relegate screenings of such films to areas where they would not attract their desired audiences. These practices are discussed throughout in an offhand manner since the "rebellious matter" is of course contrived to show what is probably the logical extreme of those censorship practices. The censor, an ex-writer, ex-poet, ex-literary and film critic - representing all Poles according to the director - reaps what he has sown when he passes through the screen and finds not liberty but the actors (beyond the cast of DAYBREAK) whose careers his decisions have stifled or destroyed. Although it was announced on the last day of shooting that the censorship office had been abolished, much of Poland's talent had already emigrated elsewhere (the film's DP Jerzy Zielinski had already started working in America before this film, including many recent Disney and Miramax credits), and the influx of previously-forbidden cinema product from other countries (including America) had made it difficult to fund the sort of challenging works Marczewski champions. Marczewski has not directed a feature since, although he has been heavily-involved in film education with Andrzej Wajda, supporting programs that give opportunities for promising students to direct debut shorts and features unhindered by commercial concerns.

Eric Cotenas

Poster

Theatrical Release: 15 October 1990 (Poland)

Reviews                                            More Reviews                                     DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Second Run DVD

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 1:27:27 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.46 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

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

Bitrate

Audio Polish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Second Run DVD

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Interview with director Wojciech Marczewski (24:45)
• Liner notes booklet by Michael Brooke

DVD Release Date: March 25th, 2013
Amaray in 3-disc slipcase

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Second Run's high-bitrate, dual-layer, HD-mastered transfer probably looks as good as this dark and intentionally drab-looking film can (on wonders how an actual HD master of PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO will compare to the clips seen in this film). The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is labeled on the back of the case as stereo, but it seems to be a very bold monophonic (particularly in the music passages). The optional English subtitles are excellent, even finding a way to find an English equivalent of a character's mispronunciation an another character's attempt to help him sound out the word correctly.

Director Marczewski appears in an interview featurette discussing his beginnings as a filmmaker, and the influence of his childhood in Communist Poland (including being sent to a Stalinist summer camp by his mother to afford them opportunities to survive what with his father having been arrested) on the films in his oeuvre that were most meaningful to him. He discusses the film at hand with sympathy for the flawed protagonist. He regards the film as not about the censor specifically but about Polish society's need to move forward (it was announced that the censorship office was abolished on the last day of filming), and first trying to get it made under the very conditions depicted in the film (before 1990). He also speaks highly of star Janusz Gajos. The featurette is directed by Daniel Bird, who has done interviews and provided supplementary features for films by other Polish auteurs like Walerian Borowczyk and Andzrej Zulawski.

Michael Brooke's essay booklet gives context to the many underhanded practices of the censorship office alluded to in the feature (and mentions some films that suffered similar manipulation like Krzysztof Kieқlowski's NO END). He also mentions that production company Tor did not regard it as serious a project as their recent triumph (Kieslowski's DEKALOG series) until Woody Allen gave permission for excerpts from PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO to be used in the film free of charge (Allen receives acknowledgment in the end credits). He also points out that the influx of capitalism (including the import of previously forbidden American mainstream films) has actually made it more difficult to get serious Polish films greenlighted (due to profitability rather than messages).

- Eric Cotenas

 


DVD Menus
 

 


Screen Captures


Subtitle sample

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 


(aka "Illumination" or "Iluminacja" )

 

directed by Krzysztof Zanussi
Poland 1973

 

"Illumination" is the fourth feature film by Krzysztof anussi, the Polish director whose "Family Life" was well received at the 1971 New York Film Festival, but its concerns are those grandly fundamental ones of an artist's first work.

The film devotes itself to the pursuit of life's meaning undertaken by a solemn young university student who opts to major in physics in order to learn "unequivocal things." When the study of physics fails to provide him with answers, Franciszek (Stanislaw Latallo) elects to work in a hospital devoted to neurosurgery. "Why," he asks a doctor friend, "do we invade the soul's material bases?"

For a while, Franciszek even contemplates the contemplative life of a hermit in a monastery. At last, just as his own body has physically peaked, shortly before his 30th birthday, a professor tells him there are no absolute truths in any science. There is only the possibility of understanding a little more.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

Poster

Theatrical Release: 23 November 1973 (Poland)

Reviews                                       More Reviews                                  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Second Run DVD

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 1:28:30 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

1.66:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.46 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

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

Bitrate

Audio Polish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Second Run DVD

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.66:1

Edition Details:
• Interview with director Krzysztof Zanussi (16:9; 19:47)
• Short film 'A Trace' (4:3; 26:00)
• Liner Notes Booklet by Michal Oleszczyk

DVD Release Date: 25 March 2013
Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Second Run's high-bitrate, dual-layer encoding of this HD master is gorgeous to behold with fine detail and gorgeous colors. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is also striking when it comes to Wojciech Kilar's score (the optional English subtitles are error-free and admirably try to translate as much as possible given how quickly some text inserts flit by).

The extras package is quite impressive, starting with a brand new interview with director Zanussi. The English-speaking director mentions his own education. He chose physics as one of the only sciences not "contaminated" by Marxism (biology having already been ideologized) like his character, but having found that it was not his vocation. He dabbled in avant-garde films and applied to the film academy when one of his films one an award. Excerpts from his graduate film are also included (despite the school worrying about the use of a monastery for a socialist subject, the film managed to win awards from atheist and Catholic foundations in two separate cities). He also describes his approach to documentary/essay approach to the fictional story in ILLUMINATION, as well as his further attempts to incorporate additional experimental techniques to disrupt the sense of "banalized" dramatic structure. He also addresses the issues with the censor (a running theme in the background material of all three films in this set).

The 1996 short film "A Trace" is not a work by Zanussi, but a film by Marcin Latallo on his father Stanislaw Latallo (the star of ILLUMINATION) and his collaboration with Zanussi, as well as filmmakers Agnieszka Holland and Tadeusz Konwicki. "A Trace" was sourced from a telecine of a 35mm print and has burnt-in subtitles. Also included is a booklet featuring an essay on the film by Michal Oleszczyk, a Polish film critic (and one of Roger Ebert's foreign correspondents), which frames the film's style in the context of Zanussi's other works and describes some of the conflicts between the director and the star (who wanted to play the character more in the James Dean mold, which seems entirely opposed not only to Zanussi's approach but the character in general).

- Eric Cotenas

 


DVD Menus
 

 


Screen Captures


Subtitle sample

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Second Run DVD

Region 0 - PAL

 



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