Zezowate szczęście | Bad Luck
DIRECTOR: Andrzej Munk | WRITER: Jerzy Stefan Stawiński | CAST: Bogumił Kobiela, Barbara Kwiatkowska, Maria Ciesielska, Wojciech Siemion, Edward Dziewoński, Tadeusz Bartosik | Poland
I’ve had writer’s block in trying to write a review for this movie, so until I manage to overcome it and put my jumbled thoughts in order — and I really want to since the movie really hit me for some reason — here’s something short. Bad Luck is a satirical Polish slapstick farce tracing the bumbling career of a completely unsympathetic Everyman from around 1930 until 1950 that I found compelling and funny despite everything. There’s oh-so-funny speeded up film, Keystone Kops routines, broadly exaggerated acting, stupid sight gags and “funny” sound effects — the whole gamut of threadbare schtick that usually makes my skin crawl, but director Andrzej Munk and the actor Bogumił Kobiela in the lead role just make it work. What I find particularly appealing is their refusal to pull their punches: Kobiela’s character may be a completely self-absorbed, cynical, and not very bright opportunist, but the movie almost insists that he’s not some comical aberration but instead really is a Polish Everyman. And the whole issue of Polish anti-Semitism comes into play in that Jan Piszczyk, Kobiela’s character, is constantly being mistaken for a Jew. I’m having trouble sorting my thoughts about their treatment of anti-Semitism since both Munk and Kobiela were themselves Jews and were known as Jews by their Polish audience; anti-Semitism, they seem to be saying without exaggerating it or dwelling on it, is something else that’s screwed up about the Polish people.
In any case, I was familiar with Andrzej Munk’s name but that’s about it; sadly, he only made 5 features before dying in a car accident a couple of years after Bad Luck was made. I had never heard of Kobiela before (he also died young in a car accident) and was really taken with him. He’s very much in the tradition of the great silent comedians, of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, but there’s something different about him: he doesn’t invite sympathy but he’s not a bad guy you love to hiss, either. All I can think of is a cross between Buster Keaton and Peter Sellers by way of Harold Lloyd, maybe. I’ve gone back and forth on how to rate this film. For now I’m giving it 7/10.