All My Stars (32)
August 11, 2016
One in a weekly series in which Joanne McNeil recommends books, films, exhibitions, and more. You can also subscribe to the All My Stars newsletter here.
There’s a new digital restoration of On the Silver Globe out in a handful of theaters this summer. I caught it at Cinefamily over the weekend. Now, this is the third newsletter in six months I’ve written about Andrzej Żuławski. I love his movies. While it’s bewitching in many ways, this would be a less than ideal introduction to his movies. Start with Possession. Or even Cosmos. On the Silver Globe, despite its gorgeous camerawork and costumes, might be just about unwatchable to someone who isn’t already intrigued by Żuławski’s work.
I loved On the Silver Globe but at times I was frustrated by it, and it didn’t help that I was craning my neck left and right to read the subtitles between the heads of people in the crowded theater in front of me. I have never seen sets and costumes like these. Beach space goth with the unworldly flourish of an Alexander McQueen collection. There’s movement and atmosphere that is genuinely unsettling. And yet, I was left craving something — either a developed character or anything more of a plot — to pin this mood down and make these scenes memorable. That’s partly because On the Silver Globe is forever incomplete, and it is watched in its almost-there state like Judy Garland’s A Star is Born.
Mubi has a detailed history of the censorship and other hoops the filmmaker went through to finish the film. The production was shut down at right about the end of filming in 1977. Poland’s Deputy Minister of Culture “repeatedly denied all requests to shoot the final few scenes and even ordered the dismantling of all sets, costumes, and props (which crew members kept tucked away in their own apartments). Żuławski, now completely disillusioned, moved back to France. When the Communist Party began to lose influence in Poland in 1987, Żuławski quickly restarted the project and edited the surviving materials for entry to the 1988 Cannes Film Festival”
In a handful of places, Żuławski narrates the scenes he was unable to film over footage of contemporary urban Poland. Zach Lewis at Mubi says, “To my mind, this is the most powerful use of breaking the fourth wall in cinema history, asking each viewer to live both in and out of the film, national history, and production history.” But I’m not so sure. It is almost three hours long and the missing scenes were infrequent — maybe 15 minutes in total. He’s taking us outside the picture — but there is still a picture. I couldn’t quite make sense of who the characters were or what they were doing and, at the end of the film, I felt like I needed to watch it again because I was so confused. Maybe I will? It sure is beautiful, blue, and gloomy.
CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators