Magical Mystery Tours

Someone at the Polish Cultural Institute must be putting in serious overtime: Anthology features four films directed by Lem's fellow novelist Tadeusz Konwicki. One of Konwicki's translators said of his supple prose, "Only in fiction can there be tenses like this past future imperfect," and the double threat's 1971 film So Far and Yet So Near locates the tension in that tense. The film starts in abstraction (a biblically bearded figure floating sideways in a corroded empyrean), snaps into noir-terse focus when the protagonist utters, "In 86 minutes I will kill a man," and then proceeds to collapse emotional and chronological time. The meta-movie construct creaks in spots, but otherwise the film startles with its walking dead, Buñuelian tableaux, and troop of sinister wicker men. A fever dream of a birthday party transpires in spasms of nightmare sex, eschatological ramblings, and brain-curdling lounge music.

Nobody beats the wiz: Radcliffe's Potter gets down.
photo: Peter Mountain/Warner Bros.
Nobody beats the wiz: Radcliffe's Potter gets down.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Directed by Chris Columbus
Written by Steve Kloves, from the novel by J.K. Rowling
Warner Bros.
Opens November 15

From the Mind of Stanislaw Lem
Through November 19, at the Pioneer

Tadeusz Konwicki
November 17 through 27, at Anthology

By contrast, Konwicki's 1958 debut, The Last Day of Summer, has an outward calm, its sharp black-and-white seascape underscored only by the roar of surf and the occasional fighter plane—though perhaps it's time to worry when they begin to sound the same. A boyish man and an older, regret-laden woman meet, freed of names but not history, and frolic, feast, fight. Or is he just a phantom? If the existential purity of the sandy setting has been cheapened by a generation of clothing catalogs (not to mention residual Swept Away shudders), at least the final shot proves suitably cosmic: the bereft wading futilely into shelf after shelf of sea, an island of one, like the solipsistic artifact later embedded in the waters that conclude Tarkovsky's Solaris.

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