Jack Garner: Film about Roman Polanski opens Polish Film Festival

05:00 AM, Nov 03, 2013

Polish-French filmmaker Roman Polanski. (JACQUES DEMARTHON/ / AFP/Getty Images)/


Written By Jack Garner At the Movies

One of Poland’s greatest — and most controversial — cinematic figures, Roman Polanski, is the subject of a fascinating biographical documentary, opening Rochester’s annual Polish Film Festival on Wednesday.

Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir was created by Laurent Bouzereau, admittedly a friend of the famous director. Still, he explores the tough aspects of Polanski’s life, as well as the high points. Bouzereau, in fact, stresses that he wanted to tell Polanski’s story because of the incredible highs and lows.

After all, Polanski lost his family in the Holocaust; he won acclaim for such films as Cul-de-Sac, Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown; he found happiness in marriage to Sharon Tate, only to have it turn to horror at the hands of Charles Manson and his followers; and then he was charged with rape after having sex with an underage girl in a hot tub.

Bouzereau and Polanski cover all that ground, and more, in the intriguing and seemingly honest conversation, interspersed with film clips and news footage.

The film opens the festival at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Dryden Theatre.

Other films in the five-day festival include Imagine, a warm-hearted drama about a blind man who travels to an institute for the blind in Portugal and tries to help the patients learn to navigate for themselves; The Closed Circuit, an engrossing, well-acted thriller about political greed and corruption in contemporary Gdansk, Poland; and My Father’s Bike, a comedy-drama, detailing the relationships and adventures of three generations of the men in a Polish family.

The opening-night film is at the Dryden Theatre, the rest are at the Little. Tickets, at the door, are $9. For information, go to rochester.edu/college/psc/CPCES/.

WITH A HITCH. Alfred Hitchcock has been a favorite filmmaker of mine since I was a mere 9-year-old, getting chills as Raymond Burr slowly climbed the back steps toward Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window.

So, I approached Geva Theatre’s current production of The 39 Steps with considerable eagerness. Oh, be assured, I knew it amped up the Hitchcock thriller into a zany parody, and was played extensively for laughs. And, boy, did we laugh. I think this may have been the funniest 90 minutes I’ve experienced at a Geva play.

Much of the humor comes from the casting concept: Only four actors perform the play, despite the presence of a score of characters. John Gregorio plays Richard Hannay, the innocent Everyman, pulled into intrigue; Monica West plays three of the women in the story, including the love interest; and Aaron Munoz and Joel Van Liew show amazing versatility and endurance by playing several men, either with backstage or even onstage quick changes. The quick changes trigger a lot of laughs.

This new production of The 39 Steps has also been a hit in London and on Broadway. Energetically directed by Sean Daniels, Geva reimagines Hitchcock as if England’s beloved, old Beyond the Fringe comedy troupe, or perhaps (in a reference for younger readers), the Monty Python gang, were performing it. The result is clever, true to the basic story, but embellished hilariously.

I love Hitchcock and I love how this crackerjack show pinches the master’s rosy round cheeks!

The 39 Steps runs through Nov. 17.

HITCH TIMES 9. And Rochester is not yet done with Hitchcock. On the heels of the screening of four classics at the Little, and the current Geva play, the Dryden Theatre at the Eastman House is offering “The Hitchcock 9,” a wondrous restoration by the British Film Institute of nine of Hitchcock’s first films, silent gems created in the ’20s in his native England.

Each film will be accompanied by live piano performance from Philip C. Carli.

Any fan of Hitchcock will relish the chance to watch the master’s development from his earliest films.

The series opens at 8 p.m. Thursday with The Pleasure Garden, a movie that can claim the honor of being Hitchcock’s first. The other eight films unspool over the months of November and December.

If you have the time — and are serious about Hitchcock and/or silent cinema, you’ll want to see them all. However, if pressed, I’d tell you the two essentials:

The Lodger (1927), Hitchcock’s highly imaginative telling of a Jack the Ripper thriller. It stars the renowned Ivor Novello. It’s at 8 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 9).

Blackmail (1929), a well-made thriller about a woman who murders a man who attempts to rape her. The film was a “bridge” between the silent and sound eras of British film. Hitchcock made it originally as a silent, but then converted aspects of it to sound when the new format became all the rage. Still, the silent version has remained in the British Film Institute collection, where it was restored for the “Hitchcock 9” series. The film will be screened at 8 p.m. Dec. 28.

For schedules and more, go to dryden.eastmanhouse.org.