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The premiere of "Bird Talk" by Xawery Żuławski

9/05/19
Bird Talk, by Xawery Żuławski
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In one of the year's biggest movie events, the 19th New Horizons International Film Festival will feature the Polish premiere of the latest film by Xawery Żuławski (director of Snow White and Russian Red), based on a script written by his father, Andrzej Żuławski.

Bird Talk is a remarkable and bold project featuring a pantheon of Polish stars in surprising roles, such as Sebastian Fabijański and Daniel Olbrychski. Special festival screenings of Xawery Żuławski'sSnow White and Russian Red, as well as iconic pictures by Andrzej Żuławski, such as Possession, The Devil and That Most Important ThingLove will complement the premiere showing of Bird Talk.

Bird Talk is a radical artistic experiment that fantastically reconciles two different sensibilities, creative temperaments and ideas for cinema. The fascinating screen dialogue between father and son combines nostalgia with fury, sublimity with humor, old-school stylization with a sharp, penetrating view of Polish reality, writes Małgorzata Sadowska, New Horizons International Film Festival Programmer, about Xawery's latest film.

Do whatever you want with that. You can even read it. Or throw it out before reading, said Andrzej Żuławski, shortly before his death, when handing his son this script. Prior to that, it went to producer Marcin Wierzchosławski who planned to have Andrzej Żuławski direct it himself. After the director's death, the producer encouraged Xawery to make the film, but it took the director some time to warm up to the idea. Once he did, he invited several directors from his generation, Jacek Borcuch, Piotr Kielar and Jan Komasa, to cooperate in making Bird Talk. Ultimately, however, he directed it on his own, making the most daring of his films.

The titular "bird talk" is the language used by those excluded from the aggressive, raucous majority - the history teacher tormented by his students, a recently-fired language teacher, a leprous composer, a woman who cleans the house of a banker, a deformed florist and a student fascinated by the cinema who are pushed to the margins by a system that reproduces thoughtlessness and chants of hatred - the hate screamed by Nazi football fans. The film's protagonists have only irony, flowers and quotes from the classics as their weapons. Andrzej Żuławski's script accentuates the degradation of Polish intelligentsia, who choose a peculiar splendid isolation when surrounded by contempt for knowledge, by incivility and just plain stupidity. Even the names of the main characters - Lucjan, Marian, and Józef - ostentatiously hark back to another time. Into this story of a rejected community, Xawery Żuławski injects the crazy energy akin to his Snow White and Russian Red and the anarchist atmosphere of his debut, Chaos, but also tenderly extracts a theme of father-son relations. Marian (you have not seen Sebastian Fabijański like this yet!) and Gustaw (Daniel Olbrychski) are reminiscent of Xawery and his father, Andrzej.

The "young" Żuławski also pays homage to his father's films. Bird Talk is a glossary of Andrzej Żuławski's cinematic motifs, evoking its scenes, characters, costumes, themes and aura from films such as The Shaman, Possession, The DevilThe Blue Note and The Third Part of the Night.

Cinematographer Andrzej Jaroszewicz and composer Andrzej Korzyński (Andrzej Żuławski's favorite collaborators) also work their magic on Bird Talk, as do several actors the elder Żuławski favored, e.g. Michał Grudziński, Alicja Jachiewicz and Monika Niemczyk. They are joined on-screen by a fresh approach to casting, which netted Sebastian Fabijański, Jaśmina Polak, Eryk Kulm, Katarzyna Chojnacka, Sebastian Pawlak, Andrzej Chyra, Borys Szyc, Marta Żmuda-Trzebiatowska and ... Marcin and Rafał Mroczek.

Bird Talk is astylistic tour de force that seamlessly combines contradictory elements while moving towards an ecstatic finale. That finale makes us think about the film as a kind of spiritualist séance calling up ghosts such as his father's works. Or maybe it even tries to conjure up the soul; after all, when asked where it lies, Marian answers without hesitation, In the cinema!


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