Zezowate szczescie (1960)

BAD LUCK (Zezowate szczescie) (aka: COCKEYED HAPPINESS)

(director: Andrzej Munk; screenwriters: Jerzy Stefan Stawinski/novel by Szesc Wcielen Jana Piszczyka; cinematographers: Jerzy Lipman/Krzysztof Winiewicz; editor: Jadwiga Zajicek; music: Jan Krenz; cast: Bogumil Kobiela (Jan Piszczyk), Maria Ciesielska (Basia), Helena Dabrowska (Wychówna), Barbara Kwiatkowska (Jola Wrona-Wronska), Krystyna Karkowska (Wrona-Wronska), Kazimierz Opalinski (Prison Governor), Jerzy Pichelski (Maj. Wrona-Wronski), Barbara Polomska (Zosia Jelonkowa), Roman Polanski (Jola’s Tutor), Tadeusz Bartosik (Wasik), Irena Stalonczyk (Irena Kropaczynska), Tadeusz Janczar (Ens. Sawicki), Edward Dziewonski (Jelonek), Aleksander Dzwonkowski (Cezary Piszczyk); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; Facets Video; 1960-Poland-in Polish with English subtitles)

“… a pointed black comedy that takes potshots at Poland’s painful history from 1939 to 1959.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

In acclaimed Polish director Andrzej Munk’s (“Eroica”/”Man on the Tracks”) last film before his untimely accidental death, he shoots a pointed black comedy that takes potshots at Poland’s painful history from 1939 to 1959–especially critical of its less than heroic stance during WWII. It’s based on the story by Szesc Wcielen Jana Piszczyka and scripted by Jerzy Stefan Stawinski. It was not well-received in Communist Poland, but many movie critics found it much to their liking. It’s one-note joke, however, soon runs out of gas and its excessive length plays against it despite its well-founded attack on Poland as a bastion of conformity and authoritarian rule whether from the left or right.

The film’s protagonist is Warsaw residing Jan Piszczyk (Bogumil Kobiela), a middle-aged nondescript schlub, who when released from prison after serving time for attempted murder tells the warden he wants to remain in prison because it’s the only place he had no bad luck. Telling the warden his unfortunate tale, the film goes into flashback. It covers Jan as a child and shows why he detested his mean-spirited tailor father (Aleksander Dzwonkowski), who gave him a fright about scissors. We then learn of his failures as a boy scout, at high school and as a university student (beaten when mistaken for being Jewish because of his big nose), attempt at being a lover (joins a right-wing party to become a tutor and falls for his pupil Jola (Barbara Kwiatkowska), but gets fired when he attends a demonstration and gets beaten by the police), soldier (while still a civilian, he’s captured on the first day of the war by the Germans when trying on an officer’s uniform at an abandoned army post at Zegrze), POW (where the Poles think he’s a spy and ostracize him), underground fighter (trying to get in good with a pretty girl named Basia (Maria Ciesielska), but makes a mess of things) and finally his failure as a bureaucrat in Communist Poland when he’s just trying to cope with things and lead a peaceful life.

Jan’s situations were too ridiculous to take heart in them, as it seemed on the level of an Abbott and Costello comedy. Nevertheless, the politic part had its heart in the right place and the barbed satire was at times slapstick funny.