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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Ashes and Diamonds (1958) d. Andrzej Wajda

Zbigniew Cybulski turns in an iconic performance as the cynical soldier/killer in Andrzej Wajda's 1958 film Ashes and Diamonds.

Movie Review
Ashes and Diamonds (1958)
 d. Andrzej Wajda
Criterion Collection #285

   Why not post a movie review on Christmas?  It's not like I'm actually writing this post the night before Christmas.  Ashes and Diamonds is a pretty cool Polish picture about the aftermath of World War II in Poland, when the Polish resistance continued to resist against the new Soviet backed Communist regime by assassinating officials and so forth.  Bear in mind that this movie came out in 1958, while Poland was (obviously) a Communist state.

  The main character, Maciek Chelmicki, played by Zbigniew Cybulski is a disillusioned veteran of the resistance, called upon to do "one last job" by assassinating sympathetic government official who has recently returned from war time exile in Russia.  The job goes wrong initially, leading to two unnecessary deaths,  and Chelmicki is forced to skulk around the Hotel where the target is staying for a local banquet honoring the local Mayor, who is on the verge of becoming a minister.

 While he waits for his moment, he woos the comely barmaid Krystyna, who shows him enough for him to decide that he is tired of the fighting life.... but first... he must finish this one last job.  Other than Cybulski's iconic turn as Chelmicki: A cool anti-hero with all the charm of a James Dean or Steven McQueen, Ashes and Diamonds is fairly unremarkable save for the fact that it is a Polish film from 1958 operating at a high level of "Hollywood" style professionalism.

  Ashes and Diamonds is not particularly riveting, particularly during the courtship sequences, but it is overall a work of high caliber and certainly an unexpected surprise.  The films from Eastern Europe/Soviet Union may be the biggest delight for me out of the entire collection.

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