Hands Up (Jerzy Skolimowski / France-Poland, 1981):
(Rece do Góry)

The preamble anticipates Identification of a Woman in its use of sci-fi imagery to depict the artist roused out of deep freeze, and pivots on the image of Jerzy Skolimowski’s ping-pong match with the void. Shots of devastated Beirut appear no less otherworldly; the filmmaker is on location for his role in Schlöndorff's Circle of Deceit, whose original title (Der Fälschung) gets Skolimowski thinking about cinematic forgery ("too easy an art"). Ruminations, re-enactments, protests during the Polish Solidarity: There are flashes of Alan Bates and Jane Asher, doleful, politicized murals are unveiled (one canvas depicts clashing masses under withered tree branches), Fred Zinnemann drops by the art gallery. "Do you still ask the same questions?" The event is the releasing of Skolimowski’s film after a 14-year suppression, the auteur is ambivalent but agrees to it as a way to answer his own query. The late-‘60s footage has been alternately tinted sepia and green, the story registers the growth and curdling of the Innocent Sorcerers the director wrote about. Attending a reunion, a quintet of activists (Skolimowski, Joanna Szczerbic, Tadeusz Lomnicki, Adam Hanuszkiewicz, Bogumil Kobiela) gets trapped inside a candle-strewn boxcar. Still in their tuxedoes, the characters are caked with dust and giddy with speed -- offhand surrealism (a youthful propaganda snafu finds a four-eyed Stalin in a screen-filling billboard) and parodies of death, resurrection and ritual follow, the titular raised hands belong to breathless revelers made to face a cultural abyss. Is the film too late, or too timely? Soon after the release, martial-law was imposed in Poland. The director’s homecoming may be bittersweet, but his inquiry got its answer. Cinematography by Andrzej Kostenko and Witold Sobocinski.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home