Film at Lincoln Center is pleased to announce Sci-Fi Visionary: Piotr Szulkin, - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Film at Lincoln Center is pleased to announce Sci-Fi Visionary: Piotr Szulkin,

Film at Lincoln Center is pleased to announce Sci-Fi Visionary: Piotr Szulkin, 

Film at Lincoln Center is pleased to announce Sci-Fi Visionary: Piotr Szulkin, a retrospective celebrating one of Poland’s most revolutionary filmmakers, September 6-8.

“The Polish 'cinema of anxiety' soars out of this world in the work of Piotr Szulkin... the films thrive on imaginative vision and sociological absurdity.” – Steve Dollar, The Wall Street Journal
A director, screenwriter, novelist, theatrical director, and painter, Piotr Szulkin regularly faced censorship from the Polish Communist regime of the late ’70s and early ’80s for his unabashedly political works. Szulkin’s profoundly imaginative films can be viewed as existential tales, absurdist parables, or premonitions about modern society’s hostility and the evils of totalitarianism. Drawing from 20th-century philosophy and Polish medieval literature through speculative fiction, noir, and grotesque allegories, Szulkin masterfully wielded the shoestring budgets afforded him to create shockingly iconoclastic science fiction films. Described as “the undiscovered Fritz Lang of 1980s Mitteleuropa” (Michał Oleszczyk,, Szulkin made films that were rarely seen outside of his native Poland but which continue to resonate with chilling truths about humankind, drawing eerily prescient parallels to the current worldwide political climate.
One of the largest retrospectives of his work to date, Sci-Fi Visionary: Piotr Szulkin offers a selection of new digital restorations and imported film prints. The series showcases all of Szulkin’s features, including his audacious cult classic Golem, often considered a precursor to Blade RunnerThe War of the Worlds: Next Century, a reimagining of the H.G. Wells novel and an indictment of mass media’s influence on civilians; O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization, which follows the remaining survivors of a nuclear apocalypse as they wait for a mythical Ark to save them from their dire situation; Szulkin’s exploration of female sexuality in the increasingly delirious and erotic Femina; the dadaist Ga, Ga: Glory to Heroes, which follows a prisoner aboard a penitentiary spaceship as he is sent on a mission to a police state hell planet; and Szulkin’s final film, King Ubu, based on the 19th-century Albert Jarry play, a brutal commentary on contemporary Poland in the aftermath of the Communism Szulkin criticized throughout his career. Additionally, the retrospective will highlight Szulkin’s short film work, including the folklore-inspired morality play Dziewce z ciortem and the documentary Working Women.
Presented in collaboration with the Polish Cultural Institute New York.
Organized by Florence Almozini, Tyler Wilson, and Tomek Smolarski (Polish Cultural Institute New York)
Tickets go on sale Thursday, August 15 and are $15; $12 for students, seniors (62+), and persons with disabilities; and $10 for Film at Lincoln Center members. Save with the purchase of three tickets or more. Learn more at
Acknowledgments:Polish Cultural Institute New York; Daniel Bird

All screenings take place at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street) unless otherwise noted
FeminaPoland, 1991, 35mm, 84mPolish with English subtitles
After her husband leaves for an extended business trip and her mother dies, a coolly detached, bourgeois housewife (Hanna Dunowska) embarks on an outré carnal odyssey in search of sexual fulfillment, leading her into increasingly deranged, sinister realms as memories from her childhood mingle with fever-dream seductions. Equal parts coming-of-age nightmare, softcore satire, and surrealist cantata, Szulkin’s delirious erotic fantasia unfurls in a nonstop rush of indelibly uncanny images—from a free-floating apparition of a lusty Joseph Stalin to a pair of shockingly randy puppets—as it savages religion, the state, and the idea of the nuclear family.

Preceded by: 
New digital restoration
Working Women / Kobiety pracujacePoland, 1978, 6mU.S. Premiere
Stylized with dramatic interiors and a distorted frame rate, this early documentary miniature from Szulkin depicts six sequences of solitary, repetitious labor.
Saturday, September 7, 4:30pmSunday, September 8, 8:00pm
Ga, Ga: Glory to Heroes / Ga, Ga - Chwala bohateromPoland, 1986, 35mm, 84mPolish with English subtitles
Resistance is futile in Szulkin’s stunningly nihilistic dystopian satire. In a future where life on Earth has become so wonderful that only prisoners are used for the risky business of space exploration, poker-faced intergalactic inmate Scope (Daniel Olbrychski) is sent on a seemingly doomed mission to an uncharted planet. Upon his arrival, he discovers a world curiously like a dilapidated, postapocalyptic Earth, where he is welcomed by the populace as a “hero,” an ignominious honor, he soon learns, that comes with a most barbaric fate. Taking the film’s appropriately nonsensical title from the babble of his baby daughter, Szulkin delivers a bleakly acerbic commentary on the absurdity of life in a police state.
Friday, September 6, 4:30pmSaturday, September 7, 8:30pm
New digital restoration
GolemPoland, 1980, 92mPolish with English subtitlesIn some dystopian future, scientists attempt to create a new, pliable race of humans. A seemingly ordinary product of the effort, the genetically engineered Pernat (Marek Walczewski) is subject to round-the-clock monitoring as he goes about his life amidst drab Soviet bloc architecture. Szulkin’s bold feature debut, styled in sepia tones and dramatic lighting, has been called a precursor to Blade Runner, but its title also looks back to a more ancient myth of creation and morality.
Preceded by: 
New digital restoration
The Gal and the Fiend / Dziewce z ciortemPoland, 1976, 14mPolish with English subtitlesU.S. PremiereSzulkin stages a morality play about a sinful woman’s encounter with the devil, set to the Polish ballad of the same name and imbued with folkloric imagery.Friday, September 6, 6:30pmSaturday, September 7, 2:00pm
New digital restoration
King Ubu / Ubu królPoland, 2003, 90mPolish with English subtitlesU.S. PremiereBased on Alfred Jarry’s late 19th-century, proto-Dada political satire Ubu Roi, Szulkin’s final film is an outrageous, carnivalesque commentary on post-Communist Poland in which drunken degenerate Ubu (Jan Peszek) seizes control of the monarchy in a supposedly “democratic” takeover (his signature policy: universal free beer) only to institute his own absurdist, tragicomic reign of terror. Updating Jarry’s iconoclastic vision with a fresh dose of dark, post-Soviet cynicism, King Ubu is an incendiary summative statement from an artist who devoted his career to lobbing grenades at the machinery of totalitarian political corruption.Sunday, September 8, 6:00pm
New digital restoration
O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization / O-bi, O-ba - KonieccywilizacjiPoland, 1985, 88mPolish with English subtitlesWhat remains of mankind post–nuclear apocalypse is confined to a squalid underground bunker where survivors toil desperately to uphold the last vestiges of civilization. They are spurred on by their fervent belief in a fabled Ark that will deliver them from their living hell—a myth propagated by the powers that be, and spread, in part, by the increasingly disillusioned Soft (Jerzy Stuhr) as he attempts to stave off total collapse. Working in an expressionistically grimy, grey- and blue-toned palette, Szulkin crafts a shattering existential parable about the false promises of politics and religion that plays out like a Sisyphean journey into madness.Saturday, September 7, 6:30pmSunday, September 8, 4:00pm
New digital restoration
The War of the Worlds: Next Century / Wojna swiatów -nastepne stuleciePoland, 1981, 96mPolish with English subtitlesDedicated to both H. G. Wells and Orson Welles, Szulkin’s follow-up to Golem begins with the Christmastime takeover of Poland by a band of hyperintelligent, bloodthirsty martians (played by silver-painted dwarfs in puffer jackets) who enlist hapless television newscaster Iron Idem (Roman Wilhelmi) as the voice of their 1984-esque propaganda machine. But when Iron dares to go off message, he makes an enemy even greater than the aliens: the state itself. Released just as Poland was being plunged into martial law and immediately banned, The War of the Worlds: Next Century is a disturbingly prescient allegory of power, control, and media manipulation in a post-truth world.Friday, September 6, 9:00pmSunday, September 8, 2:00pm
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Film at Lincoln Center fulfills its mission through the programming of festivals, series, retrospectives, and new releases; the publication of Film Comment; the presentation of podcasts, talks, and special events; the creation and implementation of Artist Initiatives; and our Film in Education curriculum and screenings. Since its founding in 1969, this nonprofit organization has brought the celebration of American and international film to the world-renowned arts complex Lincoln Center, making the discussion and appreciation of cinema accessible to a broad audience, and ensuring that it remains an essential art form for years to come.
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