I will begin by admitting that I have seen only one of the eight films in this series, Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema. That film is The Hourglass Sanatorium, which was completed in 1973, directed by Wojciech J. Has, and based on a book by Bruno Schulz. The film is about a youngish man who travels to a sanatorium to visit his father, who is dying. All of this would be normal (the train ride, the sanatorium, an old man on his deathbed) if it weren't taking place in a dream. There is no hard reality in Hourglass, only the weird kind of stuff we encounter in the depths of sleep. The train ride is nightmarish, the sanatorium looks like an abandoned gothic church and not a regular hospital, and there are lots of naked and busty women in the sanatorium. Because it is about a dream, the film is at once gorgeous and frustrating. Gorgeous because dreams give an art director a lot to play with, a lot of creative freedom. And frustrating because dreams know only how to go nowhere and are very repetitive: the sick father saying crazy things, the naked women, the African soldiers appearing in a Polish film out of nowhere, the naked women, the robots that fall, break, and bleed weird fluids, the naked women. Altogether, the gorgeous side of this film surpasses the frustrating dream-logic side.
Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema runs July 7–11 at Northwest Film Forum. Find the schedule at nwfilmforum.org.