is possibly a con man or a holy fool. Either way, the Stranger has a rather
torturous relationship with reality. Nobody remembers him, yet he quickly finds
himself enmeshed in the town’s Twin Peaks-ish
intrigues. It will be a decidedly strange civic celebration when the Stranger
teaches the town to dance the “Salto” in Tadeusz Konwicki’s Jump, which screens with newly
translated subtitles and a restored print as a handpicked selection of Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema, hosted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
the man who might be named Kowalski or possibly Malinowski, has a good reasons
for jumping off a speeding train. Barging in on his unsuspecting host, he
claims to have known the older man when he lived in town way back when. The
hospitable chap does not remember the Stranger, but he assumes this is due to
the lingering effects of his wartime post-traumatic stress disorder. However,
the Stranger’s paranoid ravings suggest his mental state is far more
questionable than his host’s. Nevertheless, he sort of pulls it together when
he is around Helena, his host’s temptress daughter (whom the Stranger makes a
show of mistaking for her mother).
he ambles through the town and the plot, the Stranger apparently cures sick
children, freaks out a fortune teller, and underwhelms in his efforts to seduce
Helena. Konwicki will reveal all in the closing minutes, but not before
indulging in sorts of trippy weirdness. Jump
(a.k.a. Salto) is indeed a product of the 1960’s and
Konwicki certainly captures the tenor of the time.
Jump also carries some rather
unintentional and uncomfortable irony. In real life, Zbigniew Cybulski (often
dubbed the Polish James Dean) tragically died making a leap from a moving
train, much like the one that opens the film. Konwicki penned some brilliant screenplays
and novels, but his Jump script is
more of an invitation to play than a cohesive narrative. Still, there are bits
and pieces that stick in the soul, particularly the old man who survived the
war despite looking like Blumenfeld, a famous Jewish actor—and might indeed
actually be Blumenfeld, as the Stranger insists.
of what fate had in store, Cybulski is perfect as the Stranger, somewhat
resembling Marcello Mastroianni in 8½,
when not raging like a madman at whomever and whatever. The large ensemble is
definitely a hodge-podge, but Wlodzimierz Borunski taps into some deeply sad
places as the man who claims not to be Blumenfeld.
Konwicki and cinematographer Kurt Weber craft some
striking images and the overall tone of the film is considerably more playful
than you would expect from a Warsaw Pact-era head trip. In fact, things get
pleasantly funky when it comes time to do the Salto. Recommended for
adventurous viewers, Jump screens
tomorrow (2/9) at the Walter Reade Theater, as part of Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema.
Labels: Martin Scorsese Presents, Polish Films, Tadeusz Konwicki, Zbigniew Cybulski