Polish made-for gets place in film pantheon.
A Facets Video release of the 1988 Polish Television release. Produced by Ryszard Chutkowski. Directed by Krsysztof Kieslowski. Screenplay by Kieslowski, Krsysztof Piesiewicz.
Release: Aug. 19.
With: Henryk Baranowski, Wojciech Klata, Maja Komorowska (Decalogue #1); Krystna Janda, Aleksander Bardini, Olgerd Lukaszewicz (#2); Daniel Olbrychski, Maria Pakulnis (#3): Adrianna Biedrzynska, Janusz Gajos (#4); Miroslaw Baka, Krzysztof Globisz. Jan Tesarz (#5); Grazyna Szaplowska, Olaf Lubaszenko (#6); Anna Polony, Maja Barelkowska, Wladyslaw Kowalski, Boguslaw Linda (#7); Maria Koscialkowska, Teresa Marczewska, Tadeusz Lomnicki (#8); Ewa Blaszczyk, Piotr Machalica, Jan Jankowski, Jolanta PietekGorecka (#9); Jerzy Stuhr, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Henryk Bista (#10).
When vid distrib Facets untied the legal Gordian knot that had kept "The Decalogue" largely out of general U.S. circulation since 1989, it confirmed to a larger audience what core enthusiasts already knew. Here was one of the most sublime megafilms of the late-20th century--all 10 parts and 562 minutes of it. The life-summarizing work feels all the more so considering how director Krsysztof Kieslowski's career was cut short by his unexpected death in 1906. The new "deluxe" DVD edition, however, does not quite live up to the label.
The first of several projects co-written by Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz (who came up with the idea to create dramas inspired by the Ten Commandments), "The Decalogue" was a series produced for Polish television. It then became a cause celebre on the international lest circuit in 1989 and '90.
Yet just as the film had once been a Holy Grail for American cinephiles and videostore regulars, so was the DVD, which went out of print soon after its release in 2001. So Facets' decision to unroll a three disc set would seem to satisfy any remaining hunger for the complete "Decalogue" experience.
In Roger Ebert's cursory and unremarkable 15 minute intro (jarringly lensed on the set of his "Ebert & Rueper and the Movies" syndie show), he declares the film to be "visually enhanced." The prints and transfers are actually unchanged from the previous issue. The earlier release's flaw of a slightly blurred transfer of part six has unfortunately not been rectified this time.
Kieslowski wanted a slightly different look for each part, so he worked with nine different d.p.s. The change helped motivate him throughout the yearlong shoot, as he explains in his essay on the film reprinted from Faber & Faber's published screenplay edition. The essay anchors the set's 18-page booklet, which also contains critic Judy Stone's thoughtful profile of Piesiewicz.
Except for hardcore Kieslowskians among owners of the 2001 DVD, most of the extras--segments or shows originally aired on the cultural channel of Polish TV--hardly merit an additional purchase.
By far the most entertaining addition is "Kieslowski Meets the Press," a 41-minute program in which Kieslowski guested on Polish TV's "100 Questions for ..." in 1988. His patience grows thinner with each succeeding query (fortunately not totaling 100). The confab amusingly degenerates when he openly condemns "tile incompetence" of most Polish critics. He compares them unfavorably to their counterparts in France--where, oddly enough, a "Decalogue" DVD has yet to appear.