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Andrzej Wajda - Three War Films (1954-1958)

Cast: Zbigniew Cybulski, Wienczyslaw Glinski, Tadeusz Lomnicki, more...
Director: Andrzej Wajda
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Criterion
Genre: Classics, Drama, Foreign, Politics and Social Issues, Classic Drama, Poland, Classic Drama, Criterion Collection, War
Subtitles: English
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Synopses
Ashes and Diamonds (Criterion Collection) (1958)
This is the last film in the trilogy that began Andrzej Wajda's career as a director. Preceding this wartime drama are Pokolenie (1954) and Kanal (1956). Once again, Wajda presents a strong anti-war statement, this time in the personae of two men who are given orders on the last day of World War II in Poland to murder a leading communist. The orders come from the part of the Resistance that opposes the new communist regime. One of Wajda's favorite performers and a friend, Zbigniew Cybulski plays the man who eventually pulls the trigger and kills the communist leader. And the results are not what he expected. In 1959, Popiol I Diament won in competition at the British Academy Awards and at the Venice Film Festival. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, All Movie Guide

A Generation (Criterion Collection) (1954)
A Generation is the first of Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda's "underground trilogy"-and also Wajda's first-ever feature film. Originally titled Pokolenie, the film dissects the impact that World War II had on the youth of Poland. Tadevsz Lomnicki plays an impressionable young Warsaw resident who falls in love with resistance leader Ursula Modrzinska. The passion they feel towards their cause is inextricably entwined with the intensity of their feelings towards one another. During several crucial moments, the director contrasts the "official" version of wartime events with the actual facts (many experienced first-hand by Wajda), partly as a means of explaining the peacetime disillusionment of so many young Poles. As a result, the film was subject to an overabundance of government interference when it was first released. Watch closely in the Underground scenes of A Generation and you'll spot a young Roman Polanski. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Kanal (Criterion Collection) (1957)
The second of Polish director Andrzej Wajda's WWII trilogy, following Pokolenie (A Generation) and preceding Popiol I diament (Ashes and Diamonds), Kanal is the most physically harrowing of the set. Based on the experiences of Jerzy Stefan Stawinski, a Polish patriot who participated in the battle for Warsaw in 1939 as an 18-year-old and in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, the action takes place in the last week of the 63-day Uprising, as the Nazis hunt down what few freedom fighters remain. A band of Poles takes to the sewers in hopes of escaping, but they become disoriented by the darkness and the fumes of the waist-deep filth. Whenever the Poles try to emerge for orientation or relief, the Germans are there to greet them with a hail of bullets. Kanal was Wajda's coming-out film; it won two prizes at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival and clicked with both European and American audiences, in spite of its grueling story and pessimistic tone. ~ Tom Wiener, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Ratings

Ashes and Diamonds (Criterion Collection) (1958)
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7.58 (71 votes)
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A Generation (Criterion Collection) (1954)
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7.46 (24 votes)
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Kanal (Criterion Collection) (1957)
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7.83 (48 votes)
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GreenCine Member Reviews

Come for the story, stay for the compositions by toddandsteph October 26, 2006 - 9:30 PM PDT
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1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
Ashes and Diamonds: Andrzej Wajda flawlessly directs this post-war Polish masterpiece. The story begins with a political assassination by the anti-Communist nationalists in post-WWII Poland. Unfortunately, our protagonists find out that they have killed the wrong men, which leads to a drastic reevaluation of what exactly they're accomplishing. Zbigniew Cybulski (you know I had to look the spelling of that one up) plays Maciek, the one greatest affected by this change. Throughout the course of an evening, he tries to decide if his life is the way he wants it to be. Meanwhile, his superior and friend also battles with guilt, asking his boss if what they're doing is justified. There's a sense of sadness that WWII is over, a sense that maybe ideals aren't as valuble without something definite to fight against. This has certainly proven true since hte war (for the most part). The script is simply fantastic, full of rich central and supporting characters. Wajda pushes it over-the-top though, with his Citizen Kane-inspired black and white cinematography. Guys like ajji who drool over beautiful compositions will be creaming their pants over this. There are several moments in the movie that had me wondering why Technicolor ever came into prominence in the first place. Wahoo Poland. ***** out've *****

Wait for a restored version by gregfoley March 29, 2004 - 7:45 AM PST
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3 out of 4 members found this review helpful
I recommend that you wait for a restored version before watching this film. Much of the film is set in dark sewers, and the print or transfer is weak enough that you will be looking at mostly black most of the time. I don't believe I followed it as well as I might have because of this, and so I didn't get the full experience of the film.

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Moveline's 100 Best Foreign Films
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This list was published in Moveline's July 1996 issue.
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Village Voice's 100 Best Films of the 20th Century
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When the Village Voice held its "First Annual Film Critics' Poll" they asked 50 or so film critics (like Molly Haskell, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and Andrew Sarris) to rank their top ten best films of the century. This is the result.
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