Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2023 8:49 am 
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IWO RAJSKI, GABRIELA MUSKALA IN FUGUE

TRAILER

A harsh, arresting look at sudden, sweeping memory loss that you will not forget

Critics start talking about Lure director Agnieszka Smoczynska's sophomore film by saying how memory loss movies are a cliche. They are disappointed, because The Lure, which I described as a "mermaid horror romance nostalgia musical," is so absolutely colorful and unique, and Fugue has a gray drabness about it. But check out Guy Lodge's admiring Variety review, which recognizes that in its way Fugue carves out a more subtle and equally distinctive niche.

The film takes us, at just one awkward remove, into the life of a woman whose life has been harshely restructured. The opening scene shows her, blonde, dirty, staggering, climbing onto a crowded subway platform and then to everyone's shock squatting down and peeing on the cement. Two years later, the hair is chopped and scraggly. The woman who calls herself Alicja, has been extensively tested and examined. She has no trace of memory of who she is, or was. Someone decides to put her on a TV show to see if anyone recognizes her, and lo and behold, a man out in the provinces says she is his daughter, Klinga. And she is sent to this rather wealthy household, a big modern house, with a husband, parents, and seven-year-old Daniel (the remarkable Iwo Rajski).

What is arresting is Alicja/Klinga's defiance. She has no use for these conventional people. And when there is a slow breakthrough, very gradually she connects a bit with the boy and his father too, a little, it feels earned and real, and surprising. And then, it does not quite work. There is too much damage and, yes, too much mystery. This is a thoroughly original and memorable take on the memory loss drama. The blow job; the flowery MRI, the storm on the beach, are among numerous unique and fresh moments. The silvery gray cinematography morphs seamlessly from ugly to beautiful; it is more and more a pleasure to look at. One starts out hating it, then comes to love it, and then it wanders off again.

The director has a new collaborator this time who's central to the success of Fugue: Gabriela Muskala, who both authored the tightly wound screenplay and plays the lead role of Alicja/Klinga. She is fearless, and delivers a feisty, intense performance in the role she herself has written. It's a one-off: but it's looking like that's going to be true of everything Smoczynska does.

This is thought-provoking and memorable film that takes you into a very strange, dark, Slavic, wintry place. The use of the boy is brilliant. The games he plays, his disappearance at the beach, provide a natural bridge between the normal and the abnormal all kids have access to and adults lack. This film shows Agnieszka Smoczynska to be a durable and distinctive talent for the cinema.

Fugue/Fuga, in Polish, 102 mins., debuted at Cannes May 15, 2018 in Critics Week, showing at Karlovy Vary, New Horizons at Wrocław,Poland, Melbourne, and over two dozen other festivals. Distributed by Dekanalog, it opens now in US theaters starting March 10, 2023 in Los Angeles and March 31 in New York.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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