Film

Zulawski’s ‘Cosmos’ Marks the Challenging, Hilarious Swan Song of a Master

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The late Polish master Andrzej Zulawski’s final feature comes sixteen years after its nearest predecessor.

His farewell zips along with his whims and rages, pitting louche young bucks Witold (Jonathan Genet) and Fuks (Johan Libéreau) against — well, it’s not easy to say just what exactly these men encounter when they rent rooms in a guesthouse run by a squabbling family of wart salters and radish buffs. Someone has strung up a dead bird outside, which staggers Witold into existential terror and hilariously rapid novel-writing; meanwhile, he and Fuks marvel at the split lip of a maid (Clémentine Pons) and Witold flirts with Lena (Victória Guerra), the daughter of the home’s owners, via synchronized utensil-fondling at one of many mad dinner scenes.

Everyone’s reeling from dreads and reveries they can’t quite comprehend, and Zulawski’s daft incidents, comic sketches, and stabs of profundity will likely put you into a similar awed stupor — such energy, lunacy, self-referentiality, and pun density, all shot and staged with brisk expressiveness and smooth-gliding camerawork. Witold is a lanky figure of Byronic mopery and self-importance; he’s named for the novelist Witold Gombrowicz, the prickly absurdist of Polish lit, whose 1965 work Cosmos gives Zulawski a framework and a spirit.

Everything happens and nothing happens: Genre and identities shift, a cat gets offed, there are a couple of vaguely translated jokes about how much the barfing sound bleurgh suggests the name Spielberg, and the characters visit the sea for another long, discursive dining scene, this time with a field of restless blue ocean roiling behind them. The characters themselves wonder whether all of this is adding up to anything — puzzling over bafflements is the price and privilege of existence.

Cosmos

Directed by Andrzej Zulawski

Kino Lorber

Opens June 17, Metrograph

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