Ballet of Blood

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Andrzej Zulawski is incredible. His films are often as visceral and pulp-driven as they are conceptually dense and philosophic, combining equal eye for assessing the modern world and channeling broad earnest Dostoevskian themes by way of surrealism. Somehow, even despite constant visual flair and an ability to extract unreaonsably intense performances from his entire casts, this same combination which has made him basically my ideal filmmaker has also gotten his his films shut down at home in Poland, banned in England, edited into B-movie oblivion in the States, and met with varying levels of interest and disinterest in France, where, at least, he was able to find funding seven of his twelve feature productions. At last, bit by bit, recognition is coming — boutique DVD label Mondo Vision has been issuing gorgeously restored versions of long-unreleased films, his masterpiece of deteriorating relationship horror, 1981's Possession, showed for a week at Film Forum last fall, and now we're in the midst the first-ever American Zulawski retrospective, continuing until next Tuesday at BAM in Brooklyn, and including all twelve of his features and even two early shorts for Polish television that didn't even have IMDB pages until recently. Perhaps now, at age 71 and a decade since his last film (he's been writing in the meantime), Zulawski is finally getting the recognition he deserves.

Anyway, here are 43 stills from L'Amour Braque (“mad love” or “limpet love”), Zulawski's obsessively-choreographed tragic-frenetic gangster-ballet of the 80s-neon Parisian underworld, operatic familial downfall, international strife, with tongue-twister dialogue by an anarchist songwriter, all in reconstruction of Dosteovsky's story of an innocent whose goodness can only bring ruin, The Idiot. It's glorious, messy, brilliant. At some point protagonist Leon says something like “the seagull walks in the muck, and the mark it leaves is more beautiful than its flight or its life” – not only relevant to the production of Chekov's The Seagull taking place in the film, but perhaps an explanation of Zulawski's filmmaking as a whole: it takes a lot of blood, destruction, and hedonism to capture the imprint of something this ultimately beautiful. It'll be playing this Wednesday, the 14th, if you're in or around New York.

Opening credits/opening heist.

Central triangle established.

Even the pyrotechnics are stunningly arranged.

Painterly shootout compositions. Note the mirrors.