Tag Archives: Polanski

The Ghost Writer (Autor Widmo): Movie Review

Polanski was unexpectedly arrested and threatened with extradition to the United States while The Ghost Writer was in post production. The result was a surge of interest in the director’s work and a great deal of bated breath over the release of his latest movie. The main plot thread of the movie concerns a former British prime minister who is threatened with arrest and extradition to Europe resulting in a surge of interest and bated breath over the upcoming publication of his memoirs. A big enough coincidence to be getting on with, but just the first of many in what turns out to be 128 minutes of spooky film making.

Plot, acting, cinematography and all the usual things people go to movies to enjoy went rapidly out of the window as I became immersed in the game of spot-the-subtext.

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“Are you aware we are just pawns in a fiendishly complex meta-text?”

About 15 minutes in Olivia Williams appears as the wife of the former British PM (Pierce Brosnan). Literally the day before I had been reading up on Radosław Sikorski for a Krakow Post article and discovered that he had lived in the UK for many years and been in a long-term relationship with… Olivia Williams. This is the Radosław Sikorski who’s a hot tip to become the next president of Poland, the same Poland that recently admitted hosting secret CIA rendition flights, the same rendition flights that feature as a major sub-plot in The Ghost Writer.

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This is as much work as the ghost writer does in the entire film. I’m still waiting for my $250,000 payout for hanging around in a luxury villa.

I wouldn’t have worried about any of these things if the main thrust of the plot hadn’t turned out to be about seemingly irrelevant details hidden in the text of the memoirs the titular ghost writer has been hired to work on.

Then there are all the other oddities. Kim Cattrall appeared at some point and I completely failed to recognize her, despite having seen 900 episodes of Sex and the City, because she had an English accent. Then I remembered that she is English. It drove me mad that the main character played by Ewan McGregor wasn’t referred to by name (I always try to keep track of names in thrillers) until I realized it was deliberate, then I started constructing bizarre anagrams from the suspiciously alliterative names of other characters until the plot began to drift away from me. And what was going on in those sequences with the gardener engaged in Sisyphean leaf-sweeping? Surely that means something.

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Bloody hell, it’s Kim Cattrall!

On a personal level the whole experience was made immeasurably weirder by the fact that the main character’s phone had exactly the same ring tone as my wife’s as well as the fact that, when the lights went up, I discovered we were completely unknowingly sat next to fellow Krakow Post columnist John Marshall.

The movie? It’s okay. The plot is about as feasible as a Communist revolution in Kensington but there’s enough of it to keep you going. If I was an actor who had played the part of any of the characters who died in this movie, however, I would be seriously worried at this point.

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A Guide To Songs About Poland, Heavily YouTube Loaded

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There was a time I envied Hungary a bit of a lot:

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Jethro Tull, my band #1 to take to an inhabited tropical island (or wherever my pension is going to take me) gave out a song “Budapest”. Before the ultimate tearing the Iron Curtain off and away, and today, too, to a certain extent, the national pride of Poland had longed for any honourable mentions in Western production. So that we’d know the civilised world knows we’re not a Russian colony with no history or ambitions.

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We would idolise people feeding our starving egos – like Marino Marini, a medium-popular Italian songster with a one-timer in heavily-accented Polish (but damn, the song is so sentimentally kitsch it’s beautiful):

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Or like Classix Nouveaux. (They’ll never never come out of my mobile). The problem with bands like CN was they would requite the love Poles felt for them — but were not recognised too worldly.

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And Poles would probably remind an English or German foreigner some internationally famous tunes may be of Polish origin.

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Or that Polish Roman Polański directed a movie about Polish Władysław Szpilman playing Polish Fryderyk Szopen. If music should not be enough:

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Or that Gazebo would sing “I like Chopin” [but did he mean Chopin vodka?].

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Or that Midnight Oil sing about Kościuszko, though Aussies misspell and mispronounce him and often think he’s just a mount.

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Or we would speak of Charles Bronson, who was Polish (oh really?), and a harmonica virtuoso.

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Or we would be happy Maidens want us to play pray with them:

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Or that they visit our airports.

That they visit our cities.

That they play our football.

That they see our people.

That they attend our weddings.

So that they could say “Na zdrowie”:

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Or that U2 made a Solidarnosc-inspired song (for which Poles would pay back waving their shirts the other time).

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Or Kim Wilde? Long before she was covered in Cambodia by Apoptygma Berzerk, Polish “affectionate people” had covered her with flowers and kisses and kisses and improvised dancing, live, probably to thank her she came to us capable of saying “Cześć” or “Dziękuję”:

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Hey, we even liked strangers when their admiration came through imitation. For example: Vox, the first Polish boys-will-be-boys-band, singing about aloha-sunny-banana way of life when it was grey and communist outside. The song has been kicking arse, amen. And it still kicks, even if in a Czech remake meant for a TV commercial.

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Our hearts soar when someone such as Eddie Vedder speaks Polish (even if it’s read, and it’s B16 Polish more than Polish Polish).

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Yes, our depression could be low.

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So, what more?

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This premiere-league metal musician took Danzig for his alias. (And Danzig is German for Gdańsk. Hurrah!)

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And then there’s Christopher Poland. (What a nice surname!)

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Any common denominator? Considering Chris got himself into metal albums, and that I found heavy bands like these Danes, it seems the natural way you would musically relate to Poland would be loud and clearly hard.

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Type O Negative is a first class metal band, and its core-man is Peter Steele, born Ratajczyk. Just when one could boast his Polish surname, one would learn Peter sings about faeces, or women that cheat on him, that he posed for Playgirl, that he was clinically treated for depression, or that he converted from atheism to Catholicism. Let’s be confused: is it good PR, or not?

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There are exports, too (to boost up our pride aware of them admiring our guys).

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Vader – the best (selling) thing in music from Poland (*).
I still recall the thrill of the time I saw
the first Polish words on MTVfirst Polish words on MTV, a Polish ballet dancer, a Polish power plant, lots of first class loudness in their video. On the other hand, Vader is not a Polish name, the band IS good (while goodness is international) and singing in English. [And how! Uttering loud lines “We await the silent empire” and “We do believe in silence” is clear irony and wit, and they will discuss stuff like for-snobs-only Pynchonisms, with unprecedented speed (try to say “You’d better never antagonize the horn” in 0.8 second).]

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(*) Since that etude thing Chopin wrote. Yes, that borrowing from a prelude by Birkin. The lending to Beyond The Sea. Yes, the song in American…Or’s it English?…French?…Or Corsican French?…Or French-English on Japanese tv? — It’s all one, anyway.
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Anyway. Jethro Tull went on with “Budapest” for 10 minutes long and more. This could hurt the national pride of a non-Hungarian. Despite the fact Poles and Hungarians have been considered “brethren”. (We don’t speak our brother’s language, we don’t see one another too often, we hardly shared borders. Yes, warm feelings are feasible.)

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Granted, Jethro Tull mentions Poland alright (“the beat of distant Africa or a Polish factory town”) but that’s not quite what I’d expect. I mean — where’s a song entitled “Warsaw”?

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Well, I’ll tell you where.

Joy Division.
Porcupine Tree.
David Bowie (with Brian Eno).

Plus Tangerine Dream (with Poland) ?
Plus Niemen in French?

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Not often a place earns a Babylonian god’s song with German title, English words, Swedish voice.
Not always a madam’s cul in that place gets a mention in a French song, Belgian voice, first verse.
Not bad. Not bad at all.

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PS But now I am going to listen to Laibach. Whose “words are for you, Poland”, says the third sentence, and the beginning rings the bell in its unmistakenly Polish way.

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I can’t dance, I can’t sing.

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