Agnieszka Holland Movies: Controversial Polish Filmmaker Retrospective at MoMA

by Andre Soares
Agnieszka Holland Total Eclipse Leonardo DiCaprio: Troubled gay love/hate storyAgnieszka Holland film Total Eclipse with Leonardo DiCaprio. Directed by the Polish filmmaker perhaps best known for the World War II drama Europa Europa, Total Eclipse chronicles the troubled, love/hate relationship between 19th century French poets Arthur Rimbaud (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the older, better established Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis). The screenplay was written by Christopher Hampton (Carrington, Atonement), from his own 1967 play. A major box office disappointment, Total Eclipse also features Romane Bohringer as Mathilde Mauté (Verlaine's wife) and Dominique Blanc as Isabelle Rimbaud (Arthur's sister).

Agnieszka Holland retrospective at MoMA: Chance to check out lesser-known films by 'Europa Europa' & 'Total Eclipse' filmmaker

The ongoing Agnieszka Holland retrospective in New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) continues until Jan. 5. Holland, best known for her World War II era drama Europa Europa, in addition to Olivier Olivier, The Secret Garden, Washington Square, and Total Eclipse, directed and wrote a number of lesser-known films in her native Poland.

Among the upcoming MoMA screenings are several efforts from her Polish period, including the 1981 political dramas Fever and A Lonely Woman, both of which were banned in Poland during that turbulent period.

'Anna': Brilliant Sally Kirkland

Also screening are the intriguing U.S.-made drama Anna (1987), directed by Yurek Bogayevicz, written by Holland, and starring Best Actress Oscar nominee Sally Kirkland, who delivers a sensational performance – it's a crime she didn't win the Academy Award that year – as a has-been Czech actress (inspired by Polish actress Elzbieta Czyzewska) struggling to find her footing in New York City's theater scene. (The 1987 Best Actress winner was Cher for another New York City-set effort, Norman Jewison's lightweight Moonstruck.)

And finally, MoMA will present Holland's German-made, Academy Award-nominated drama Angry Harvest (1985), and the socially conscious drama The Offsiders (2008), directed by Holland's daughter Kasia Adamik, from a concept by Holland herself. Adamik is expected to attend the two screenings of her film.

'Blithe Spirit'

As an aside, on Dec. 31, MoMA will show the David Lean-directed 1945 film adaptation of Noël Coward's play Blithe Spirit, a pleasant supernatural comedy about an unfaithful husband, his wife, the ghost of his ex-wife, and an eccentric medium. The cast includes Rex Harrison (the husband), Constance Cummings (the wife), Kay Hammond (the ghost), and scene-stealer supreme Margaret Rutherford (the medium).

The Blithe Spirit screenplay was written by Lean, Anthony Havelock-Allan, and future filmmaker Ronald Neame (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Poseidon Adventure).

Anna Sally Kirkland Paulina Porizkova: Best Actress nominee based on real-life Polish performerAnna with Sally Kirkland and Paulina Porizkova. Reportedly inspired by the experiences of Polish actress Elzbieta Czyzewska (Andrzej Wajda's Everything for Sale), Anna follows the titular character, a has-been Czech actress (Sally Kirkland) mired in a seemingly endless struggle to get her career back on track by way of New York City's theater scene. She eventually forms a bond with a fellow Czech, the much younger Krystyna (Paulina Porizkova), but there are complications. Directed by Yurek Bogayevicz, Anna was written by Agnieszka Holland, whose film career began as an assistant director for Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Zanussi.

Agnieszka Holland MoMA retrospective: Film info & schedule

The Agnieszka Holland December 2008/January 2009 schedule below is from the MoMA website.

Kobieta Samotna (A Lonely Woman). 1981. Poland. Written and directed by Agnieszka Holland. With Maria Chwalibóg, Boguslaw Linda, Pawel Witczak. Selected by MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center for New Directors/New Films in 1987 (six years after both the film and the director had been banned in Poland), A Lonely Woman depicts the grim reality of a young Polish woman (Chwalibóg) who is broken down by a totalitarian system. In Polish; English subtitles. 110 min.
Sunday, Dec. 28, 2:00 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 31, 5:30 p.m.

The Wire. 2004–08. USA. Directed by Agnieszka Holland. This marathon screening includes the three episodes she has directed: “Moral Midgetry” (2004), “Corner Boys” (2006), and “React Quotes” (2008). Program approx. 150 min.
Sunday, Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 31, 7:45 p.m.

Goraczka (Fever). 1981. Poland. Directed by Agnieszka Holland. With Olgierd Lukaszewicz, Barbara Grabowska, Adam Ferency. Although already a prizewinner, Fever was banned (as was A Lonely Woman) by the military government that took over Poland in 1981. The material, which deals with Polish anarchist resistance to Russian forces following the failed 1905 revolution, is treated in a manner worthy of Dostoevsky, showing that Holland could rival her mentor Wajda as a political filmmaker. In Polish; English subtitles. 120 min.
Monday, Dec. 29, 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 30, 8:30 p.m.

Ekipa (Prime Minister). 2007. Poland. Directed by Agnieszka Holland, Kasia Adamik (Holland's daughter), Magdalena Lazarkiewicz (Holland's sister). With Marcin Perchuc, Janusz Gajos, Krzysztof Stroinski, Katarzyna Herman, Rafal Mackowiak, Andrzej Seweryn. Two episodes of a popular Polish political-thriller television show. In Polish; English subtitles. 103 min.
Monday, Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 30, 6:00 p.m.

Bittere Ernte (Angry Harvest). 1985. Germany. Directed by Agnieszka Holland. Screenplay by Holland. With Armin Mueller-Stahl, Elisabeth Trissenaar, Kathe Jaenicke. Holland's first international prize winner (Montreal World Film Festival) explores the questions of faith and ethics that would become central to her most important work. The film tells the story of a farmer who shelters – and falls in love with – a Jewish woman during the German occupation of Poland. In German; English subtitles. 102 min.
Thursday, Jan. 1, 6:00 p.m.

Anna. 1987. USA. Directed by Yurek Bogayevicz. Screenplay by Agnieszka Holland. With Sally Kirkland, Robert Fields, Paulina Porizkova, Steven Gilborn, Larry Pine, Caroline Aaron, Sofia Coppola. Holland's first English-language script set the stage for Kirkland's bravura performance as a has-been leading lady trying to survive in the unforgiving world of the New York theater. 95 min.
Thursday, Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 3, 1:00 p.m.

Olivier Olivier. 1992. France. Directed by Agnieszka Holland. Screenplay by Agnieszka Holland. With François Cluzet, Brigitte Roüan, Grégoire Colin, Marina Golovine. With this film, Holland pays a visit to the French-provincial turf of Claude Chabrol for a mysterious but strangely moving tale that, like Europa Europa, is based on real-life events. In French; English subtitles. 110 min.
Friday, Jan. 2, 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 4, 6:30 p.m.

Boisko Bezdomnych (The Offsiders). 2008. Poland. Directed by Kasia Adamik. Produced by Krzysztof Zanussi. With Marcin Dorocinski, Eryk Lubos, Dimitrij Piersin. This is the New York premiere of the second feature directed by Holland's daughter, Kasia Adamik. Based on a concept by Holland, the film depicts homeless people living in Warsaw's Grand Central Station. In Polish; English subtitles. 126 min.
Sunday, Jan. 4, 3:30 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 5, 8:00 p.m.


Leonardo DiCaprio Total Eclipse image: Fine Line Features.

Paulina Porizkova and Sally Kirkland Anna image: Vestron Pictures.

“Agnieszka Holland Movies: Controversial Polish Filmmaker Retrospective at MoMA” last updated in March 2018.

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