Skolimowski, Jerzy

(1936-)
   Actor, scriptwriter, and director (also poet, writer, and boxer), Skolimowski is among the best-known representatives of Third Polish Cinema. He started his career as coscriptwriter of Andrzej Wajda's Innocent Sorcerers (Niewinni czarodzieje, 1960) and Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water (Nóż w wodzie, 1962). He became known after directing his generational trilogy—Identification Marks: None (Rysopis, 1965), Walkover (Walkower, 1965), and The Barrier (Bariera, 1966)—which introduced a nonconformist protagonist, Andrzej Leszczyc, played in the first two films by the director himself, who refused to accept the post-Stalinist conformity. Skolimowski's films had a style similar to the new wave trends in European cinema of the 1960s. They were open, documentary-like constructs, shot on location without artificial lighting, frequently improvised on the set, and characterized by their reliance on long takes. This style was already evidenced in Skolimowski's diploma film made at the Łódź Film School, Identification Marks: None, which was produced from a number of student filmic etudes made since the second year of his studies. This film served as the essence of authorial cinema: Skolimowski was the director, scriptwriter, and actor of the film, which featured his then wife, Elżbieta Czyżewska, and his fellow students and had several references to the director's life. His next film, Walkover, continued to follow the story of Leszczyc, now a thirty-year-old boxer living on his modest boxing prizes. The most elaborate is the third part of the trilogy, The Barrier, with Jan Nowicki as Skolimowski's alter ego and featuring Krzysztof Komeda's music. The poetic stylization and ornate symbolism in the film refer to Polish history and culture.
   Skolimowski's next project, Hands Up (Ręce do góry, 1967), one of the first films to deal with Stalinism and therefore banned until 1985, focused on the postwar generation that quickly gave up its ideals and turned to a middle-class existence and aspirations. Unable to continue his career in Poland, Skolimowski left the country. He went on to make a number of films abroad, including The Shout (1978, United Kingdom), Moonlighting (1982, United Kingdom), Success is the Best Revenge (1984, United Kingdom), The Lightship (1985, United States), and Torrents of Spring (1989, France/Italy). In 1991 he directed 30 Door Key (Ferdydurke), a Polish-English-French co-production based on a novel by the celebrated Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz. Apart from starring in several of his own films, Skolimowski also acted in some mainstream films, including White Nights (1985), Big Shots (1987), and Mars Attacks! (1996).
   Other films: Deep End (1970), The Adventures of Gerard (1970), King, Queen, Knave (1971).
   See also Censorship.
   Historical Dictionary of Polish Cinema by Marek Haltof

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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