We asked George Krzewski, our resident expert on obscure Easter Bloc cinema, for some notes on one of his favorite films from the lineup of the Walter Reade’s included in the Walter Reade’s current “Storm Warnings: Resistance and Reflection in Polish Cinema, 1977-1989″ series. He had this to say:
Teddy Bear, which plays this afternoon and tonight, was voted the eighth “Most Interesting” Polish movie of the 20th century in a Polityka magazine poll (the Polish equivalent of The Economist or Time). The plot is a bit convoluted, so don’t feel too bad if you can’t follow along all the twists—I’ve seen this at least five times and it still loses me there towards the end. (The WRT’s synopsis: “the absurd plight of sports club manager Rysiek, aka ‘Teddy Bear,’ whose efforts to accompany his team to a foreign tournament are thwarted when he discovers his ex-wife has torn pages out of his passport… Rysiek attempts to get to London before his ex has a chance to empty their joint bank account. But hopping the border is easier said than done in a Communist country…”) Individual scenes are killer and the dialogues are highly quotable. Focus on lovely Christine Paul, Teddy Bear’s secretary—you might remember her from Hammer Studios’ Vampire Circus (as a vampire) or Krzysztof Zanussi’s Camouflage (as a Canadian exchange student). Her performance here is worth the price of admission, especially if you get the 3 movie series pass with membership. Richard Pena will thank you personally (that’s a joke).
A word on the filmmaker, Stanislaw Bareja, Poland’s greatest comedy director of the 20th century (that’s official, from Polish Academy of Film). Teddy Bear is surely his greatest movie, but his masterpiece is Alternatywy 4, a nine-part TV series from 1983. It should be available on VHS tapes from under the counter at some shops in Greenpoint (or on torrents, if you play like that). Never mind the lack of subtitles—like one IMDB commenter wrote: “it would be almost worth learning the idiosyncratic and difficult [?!] polish language just to watch this series!” Or this movie? Yes.