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April 22, 2007

Two Evenings with Marian Marzynski


This month, the Miami Beach Cinematheque devoted the majority of their screenings to Eastern European films. The past Friday and Saturday evenings were given over to filmmaker and teacher Marian Marzynski. A peer of Roman Polanski's, Marzynski created his own version of cinema-verite in Poland in the Sixties, and established himself as an unconventional teacher of filmmaking in the U.S. in the Seventies. The presentations were both of reunions.

The Friday evening show was of Marzynski's Polish documentaries. As Marzyinski left Poland as a political refugee, the fate of his documentaries, shown on Polish television, was unknown to him. Not only had the films been saved, but Marzynski was invited back to Poland to present his work to a new audience. The Polish television station, Kino Polska, not only preserved the films, but created a showcase collecting the work. Marzynski received copies of his films in exchange for providing commentary before each film.

Using a telephoto lens, Marzinski allowed his subjects to speak for themselves, sometimes exposing their own folly. The first film documented the reunion of Polish-Americans visiting Poland in 1962, some seeing family members for the first time in decades. A competition between two towns, shows the absurd lengths one may go for civic pride. What was most interesting about documentaries on gymnastic performers and a bicycle race were extreme close-ups of the action, of hands and faces. Marzynski complained about the bicycle race being boring, yet his use of creative angles occassionally gave the film an abstract quality, almost like Leni Reifenstahl on two wheels.

Saturday was for the presentation of Marzyinski's work-in-progress, the autobiographical Life on Marz. Primarily devoted to the years spent teaching filmmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design, the film includes excerpts from the films by his students. There are also several reunions with those students, in Hollywood, on shooting locations, and in Providence. Marz is the nickname given to Marzinski by his students. Among the graduates whose students work is shown are Jean de Segonzac, Bob Kensinger, and Gus Van Sant. Listed among the Marzinski's students is Mary Lambert. It is Marzynski's own story that is of the most interest, getting his first teaching job when someone at RISD assumed that the filmmaker was part of the Czech new wave of the late Sixties and was fluent in English. Marzynski follows up on students that made interesting work as students but had differing career paths, not always art related. Both life and art are presented as the results of circumstance and accident, as well as determination.

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Speaking of The Miami Beach Cinematheque, I will be introducing Tears of the Black Tiger on April 28. Additionally, I will speak a bit about Thai film in general and my four and half months in Chiang Mai.

The big news is that Francis Fold Coppola will be presenting a special screening on May 13 in Miami Beach. The film, Coda: Thirty Years Later is about the production of Coppola's forthcoming Youth without Youth, while the title refers to the thirty years since the making of Apocalypse Now.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 22, 2007 10:43 AM