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Thursday, May 22, 2008

KANAL (1956)

The second in Andrzej Wajda’s WWII Polish resistance trilogy (and only his second pic) details the grim retreat of a battered outfit into Warsaw via the city’s sewers. (An accurate title translation wouldn’t be CANAL, but the unappetizing SEWERS.) While Wajda ’s work never seems to live up to either his aims nor its inflated rep, this is one of his best. Yet the film sits uncomfortably between realist, agit-prop & studio filmmaking styles, ultimately failing to adhere to any or to fully convince. The cornball cast of usual suspects (tough/weary sergeant, wounded strongman, gallant artist patriot, wonder woman, et al.) is particularly dated. Flawed as it is, the amazingly dark sewer sequence and the tragic/ironic turns in their journey, easily hold your attention. If only Wajda’s filmmaking chops matched his politics & ambitions.

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