YBCA feeds the Possession obsession with a tribute to the Polish director
These films are screening at YBCA, though unfortunately the director's eight French ventures (apart from French-German co-production Possession, showing in an uncut, new 35mm print) were unavailable for inclusion. Most starring subsequent on and off-screen partner Sophie Marceau, they range from 1985's astonishing Parisian-gangster Dostoyevsky update L'amour Braque to the overblown soap operatics of 2000's Fidelity, his last work to date.
A sole later Polish endeavor completes YBCA's quintet. Szamanka's sheer extremity — of cinematic and performance frenzy, of often literal wrestling with sex, violence, religion, philosophy, and politics — crystallizes the best, worst, and most purely Zulawskienne (an actual French coinage meaning "over the top") of this singular career. An older anthropology prof (Bouguslaw Linda) and gorgeous, unlikely engineering student (Iwona Petry) fuck, fuck, fuck around Warsaw, as compulsively and destructively as the duo in 1976's In the Realm of the Senses, with an endpoint anticipating Hannibal's cannibal-licious last supper.
Reviled in Poland, barely glimpsed elsewhere, the 1996 film was notorious before it was finished, with Zulawski accused of wildly mistreating 20-year-old "discovery" Petry. She refused to comment, but immediately abandoned acting and reportedly sought spiritual succor in India. Even the sturdier Adjani said it took her years to get over making Possession. What to say about a director who drives actors over the brink? Only that the emotions — as is sometimes said of the millions spent on lavish productions — are all right up there on screen.
"FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM: DISCOVERING ANDRZEJ ZULAWSKI"
May 3-13, $6-$8
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission, SF