Thursday, January 1, 2015

335. Popiol i diament/Ashes and Diamonds (1958)

Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed By: Andrzej Wajda
Written By: Jerzy Andrzejewski, Andrzej Wajda, from the novel Popiol i diament by Jerzy Andrzejewski
Main Cast: Zbigniew Cybulski, Ewa Krzyzewska, Waclaw Zastrzezynski, Adam Pawlikowski, Bogumil Kobiela


So I kind of snuck a little holiday hiatus in there, without officially announcing it and while I did do a review of Woody Allen's newest offering, Magic in the Moonlight, I haven't reviewed a BOOK movie since four days before Christmas. Anyway, I'm back now and in my absence I was able to lay out a plan for wrapping up this season within the next three weeks. I have a mini, four day vacation coming up on January 19th and if everything goes as planned (which it should), I should easily be able to wrap it up on that first day of vacation, which will give me three whole days to get the post written up and update all of my lists. Anyway...on with the show...

Yet another one that's going to be hard for me to write a proper plot synopsis for, as I sort of crapped out at about the thirty minute mark and was pretty much confused as to what was really going on for the majority of the running time. But, hey, I'll give it a shot! The film begins with Maciek (Cybulski) and Andrzej (Pawlikowski) staking out near a small chapel, in a small Polish town, during the final day of World War II. The two are soldiers who have been assigned to assassinate a Communist leader named Szczuka (Zastrzezynski). An army convoy comes barreling down the road, the two soldiers think that Szczuka is inside and open fire. They kill the driver and the passenger of the Army vehicle and soon later realize that Szczuka wasn't aboard - mission: failed. Later Maciek and Andrzej hole up in a hotel, where Maciek develops a crush on the hotel's barmaid, Krystyna (Krzyzewska). He hits on her relentlessly, eventually coaxing her into a date with him. Meanwhile, Andrzej takes on the task of telling his superior officer that Szczuka outsmarted them and Szczuka himself shows up at the very same hotel where Maciek is putting the moves on Krystyna. That's just about as far as I got with trying to make heads or tails of this one, so sorry for not being much help, although that is the gist of it.

Let's face it boys & girls, I was never going to like this one. Although, I will say that I was onboard in the beginning. I was comprehending all the information perfectly well: Maciek and Andrzej are assassins sent to kill Szczuka and they fail, then Szczuka ends up staying at the same hotel they're staying at. It seemed like the film had a perfectly feasible plot and was going to be more than just the director making his political allegiances known. It's just that somewhere along the way my umbilical cord as an audience member got severed from this movie and from that point on, I was just going through the motions, trying to earn my tick, as Ray would say. I will say that I loved the actor who portrayed Maciek though. THE BOOK notes that he was referred to as the "James Dean of the East" and I'd call that a pretty dead on comparison. The guy had that "it factor" that just drew your eyes to him anytime he took up screen time. I may not have known what they hell was going on, but I knew this girl Krystyna was never going to be able to resist this good looking guy and I was right. Speaking of good looking, the actress playing Krystyna wasn't half bad either - Polish was apparently churning out some good looking mugs in the 1950s and Ashes and Diamonds is a great representation of that. As it is, however, call it a loss. I tried and I failed to see any really redeeming qualities, which is a shame because I'd heard of this one before I even knew about THE BOOK, so I'd hoped it would offer me up a last minute candidate for the impending TOP 20. It's just another case of me not having enough real world knowledge of the aftermath following World War II and the effect that aftermath had on Poland that hindered me from really digging my heels into this one and enjoying it more.

RATING: 4/10  I'll give it some points for the good acting, for Zbigniew Cybulski and for obviously being much more than a glorified propaganda film, but ultimately a loss for me.


January 1, 2015  4:40pm


  1. Happy New Year Andrew - and all other readers.
    Welcome back, and sorry you didn't get a better start to 2015.

    I guess a politically tinged WWII was never going to be a big hit with you, but a shame it was such a miss with you.

    I quite liked this, well, certainly felt I got a lot from, and the other two in the trilogy, but will certainly admit they were not exactly fun to watch.
    The good news for you is that the other two parts are not included.. but I suspect if you ever try another 1000 list, the three will be counted as one.

    1. Didn't even realize there were three total! I'll consider myself lucky. Although, a rewatch someday wouldn't be out of the question and may result in a better opinion.


SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #66: La piscine/The Swimming Pool (1969)

Running Time: 120 minutes Directed By: Jacques Deray Written By: Jean-Claude Carriere, Jacques Deray, Alain Page Main Cast: Alain Del...