Roman Polanski Shorts (1957-1962)

Knife in the Water is playing at Emory tomorrow so I prepped with some early shorts.

Murder (1957)
A man is murdered in bed with a pocket knife. That’s all. Damn good effect, too.

Teeth Smile (1957)
A peeper is dissuaded from his pasttime by the man of the house. At a full two minutes including credits, it’s the longer film so far.

Break Up The Dance (1957)
A pleasant outdoor party. Everyone is having a good time until some miscreants hop the fence and trash the place. The first one with sound. All of these so far have been tightly wound, shadowy and threatening.

Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958)
Two men carry a mirrored piece of furniture. Later, miscreants (maybe the same ones) kill a kitten, annoy a woman with its corpse, then smash the mirror and beat up our two moving men. Defeated, they go to a barrel graveyard and get pummelled by a cop, then retreat back into the sea. This was probably my favorite of the bunch. One of the moving men later cowrote Knife in the Water, and the composer would work with Polanski through Rosemary’s Baby. Most of these shorts are wordless – probably with international festivals in mind. This was the first award winner of the bunch, so it’s paying off.

The Lamp (1959)
A dollmaker replaces his lantern with an electric lightbulb. The electric box turns into a demon and burns his place to the ground. Dolls missing the tops of their heads always remind me of the Quay brothers.

When Angels Fall (1959)
An elderly black-and-white bathroom attendant has color flashbacks. Second movie with animal killing in it, this time a boy whipping a frog with sticks, and the first Polanski film to depict the horrors of war.

Too many great shots in this one:

The Fat and the Lean (1961)
A flunky is serenading a lazy fat man outside on a hot day. Every day the flunky helps the lazy man hunt and rest and eat and cool off, then tries to escape and gets stopped, until the lazy man ties the flunky to a goat. Times are tough for a while, but one day the flunky is released from the goat, and works twice as hard to please the lazy man, planting flowers all around him instead of trying to escape when the lazy man falls asleep. I was impressed by the acrobatic performance of the slave. IMDB says it’s Polanski himself, but then, IMDB also says Polanski played the old woman in the bathroom.

Mammals (1962)
Two dudes have one sled. Each pretends to be injured so the other will tow him in the sled. My favorite bit is when one wraps himself completely in bandages, turning invisible against the snow. Weird that R.P. would finally make an all-out comedy the same year Knife in the Water came out. I guess even Roman has to unwind once in a while. I don’t know an awful lot about Polish film, but this came after Wajda’s war trilogy, a few years before The Saragossa Manuscript was made, and before Kieslowski’s career had begun.

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