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This is a very funny film. It stars the great Stanislaw Tym - the only professional actor in an otherwise non-professional cast - as a chancer who cons his way on board a pleasure-boat on a river cruise, and he becomes the ship's entertainments officer. The cruise is used as a vehicle for a satire of communist Poland that manages to be cutting but warm at the same time. The absurdities of life in Poland at the time are wonderfully caught. But much of the humour is also more universal - trivial conversations where people have nothing to say but keep talking anyway, pretentious discourses about poetry and cinema leading to complete misunderstanding, the ridiculousness of spending one's time on "holiday" when the time spent supposedly enjoying oneself starts to resemble the boredom of working life, and so on. Non-Poles like me will miss out on the clever word-play in the script, unless you have a Polish speaker on hand to translate for you (as I did - thank you, MT!). But if you just watch it in translation without such help, it's still very funny anyway. The non-professionals are used wonderfully well - imagine Ken Loach or Pasolini making a really silly, but still pointed, comedy. There are some nice visual homages to Fellini and Tati too - another part of the universal appeal is that I think the film is in places like a Polish Monsieur Hulot's holiday. It is a piece of work that is perfect in its own way, and it's easy to see why it is so beloved in its country of origin. But it is also greatly appealing to foreigners, not least because it shows you very nicely what the essence of Polish humour is.
Although it is ostensibly a weird connection, it would be worthwhile to watch this in conjunction with Richard Lester's "Juggernaut", which is apparently a disaster movie about bombs on board a British liner, but is in fact a satire that uses the background of a cruise to make some pointed observations about contemporary society, in this case Britain in the mid-1970s. And Lester's film has some wonderful moments from Roy Kinnear as the ship's increasingly desperate entertainments officer, the spiritual cousin of Tym's phony art and culture secretary. It makes one realise just how great a metaphor for the human condition a cruise is: every one of us is trapped in a delimited space with a bunch of generally well-meaning idiots. This for me is at the root of Rejs's appeal for anyone at all, whether they are Polish or not.
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