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Peter H. Chang
Patricia Torres Diaz,
Providing an image of the daily life of ordinary Shanghai people, the story is carried out over two periods: from the 1960s to the mid-1970s, the end of the Cultural Revolution; and from the 1980s to the start of the 21st century.
The cinema was nearly full during the industry and press screening of Warsaw Dark as this film has been tipped as something really special in this years Edinburgh International Film Festival. It's directed by Chris Doyle, best known as cinematographer for a number of projects including Wong Kar-Wai's In The Mood For Love and 2046, and for working with some real heavyweights including Gus Van Sant and M Night Shyamalan. The film concerns a young prostitute named Ojka (Anna Przybylska) who is with a Polish government official when he's assassinated one night in Warsaw. She's then caught by the hit-man, drugged, taken to an apartment and begins to experience a sort of personality replacement programme. Meanwhile the police try to solve the murder and track her down, following a series of number based clues that are ambiguous in origin. Ojka's experiences locked in the rooms being tormented by this man grow ever more disturbing and masochistic as he breaks her down and she begins to lose her grip on reality.
Some of the best films are hard to watch, plain and simple. Films like Eraserhead or 2046, Koyaanisqatsi, Threads, even Nashville was a tough nut for me, but while I watch them I realise that they are brilliant for there own reasons. Whether the cinematography is amazing or maybe a specific performance by an actor, the viewer might be uncomfortable or worn-out emotionally, but they're compelled to keep watching just to have experienced the movie.
Warsaw Dark is not one of these films, not even close, although I suspect that's what Doyle had in mind. Writing that plot outline I realise any director could have initiated the set-up in around 20 minutes and created a great political thriller to build on it, but here the envelope has been pushed so far it's fallen off the table and into the waste basket. I left after 70 minutes of endless scenes of Ojka's dazed wandering half-naked around the apartment while the films screechy soundtrack assaulted the senses, vague and half relevant conversations between the police officials, shots of the hit-man eating eggs over and over again (do the eggs mean something? Did he just have a serious hankering for some eggs?), flashbacks to scenes we've already seen and that don't really seem necessary and perhaps most bizarre of all was the cell phones. I'm not sure if it was a trick to confuse cinema audiences but the film is punctuated with the noise of cell phones ringing at random, more often than not the characters on screen don't react to them so people around me kept checking their phones and looking bewildered. I think if you took the worst elements of 'tough films' like say, Inland Empire, and put them together then this is the kind of thing you're looking at. It's overly dark, agonisingly slow, unjustifiably masochistic, utterly without humour and guilty of the worst crime a film can be guilty of It is really boring. It's a beautifully shot bore. I can forgive a film pretension any day if it delivers entertainment, but Warsaw Dark did not, it is David Lynch if he were drunk and abusive, depressed and feeling unusually self-indulgent.
Before I got up to leave a lot of the audience already had so please don't blame me for not seeing the whole thing. I gave it more of a chance than most of the press this year, and I have never walked out on a film before in my life.
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