Reviews written by registered user

2 reviews in total 
Index | Alphabetical | Chronological | Useful

Sitcom (1998)
4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
A criticism of the bourgeois, 17 October 2005

"Sitcom," above all, requires a large grain of salt: it is visually shocking and provocative, and American audiences in particular often dismiss it as a "vulgar" film on these grounds. The plot, however, contains an allegorical richness that is rarely attained in most modern films. It is a theater of the absurd, and must be understood as such in order to comprehend the complexity of meanings and social commentaries it has to offer.

For starters, it is a criticism on the most basic level of the social alienated embodied by bourgeois social standards in France. One of the most accessible aspects of this commentary is the unwillingness of the characters to genuinely communicate to one another. While this makes several scenes totally hilarious, at the same time it micro-cosmically calls into question the validity of a "coherent" unit to address its internal problems; this is, obviously, an allegorical reference to France as a nation. The nation--like this bizarrely self-contained familial unit--is unable to progress and modernize in accordance with modern needs because of a lack of communication. The abstract issues of race, homosexuality, insanity, and even modern psychiatry are called into question. The modern cannot be a museumization of the past, despite whatever aesthetic benefits such staticness might offer.

It would be a good idea before viewing this film to read Freud's "Totem and Taboo." Despite the fact that no scholarly connections between the film and this work in particular have been made, it provides at least some provocative insight into the plot. I would also suggest against making a viewing of this film a family event; it would be most appropriate among those of an older age group, and is a particularly provocative piece of French film.

34 out of 39 people found the following review useful:
An essential historical film and visual masterpiece, 17 October 2005

"Ashes and Diamonds" is both an essential historical film and a visual masterpiece. Set in the first days of Soviet occupation following World War II, the film examines the moral dilemmas of the protagonist, Maciek--a young rebel hit-man-- in following through with the assassination of a leading communist party member--Sczcuka--who will soon be empowered as a means of forming a puppet communist government in Poland. The film is not limited to the perspective of the protagonist, and alternates between the moral dilemmas of each of the characters in fulfilling predetermined Soviet agendas in the formation of a communist Poland.

The visual composition of the film is as masterful as the complexity of the characters and plot. Despite the notoriously bad film technology in the Soviet states and the constraints of Socialist Realism, the film manages not only to capture the potential richness of black and white, but also manages to avoid the standard pitfalls of over-zealous editing that often destroy other contemporary Soviet films. The frames are longer shots in general, and forced schematization through editing is all but absent. The precise composition of each scene throughout the film provides the visual coherency that would otherwise be imposed by careful editing; as an example, see the scene in which Maciek is underneath the staircase in the lobby of the hotel towards the end of the film, or the final "Polish" dance scene.

I would highly recommend some research into the political transitions of Poland in the years directly following WWI before viewing this film for the first time; this film was made for a particular audience who clearly understood certain cultural and historical references that a modern Western audience will inevitably miss (ie. "Were you in Warsaw?"). The thematic and emotional complexity of the film is also enhanced by an understanding of Polish history. I would highly recommend this film for any class examining Eastern Europe or Soviet Russia (which is the context in which I was introduced to this film in particular), or to anyone who would like to better understand the complexity of Cold War politics from a perspective behind the Iron Curtain.