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DVD: Kanal (1957)
Review Rating:   Standard  
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1 (NTSC)

November 18, 2003



Genre: War / Drama  
An uneven mix of resistance fighters hold the frontline on the 56th day of the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis.



Directed by:

Andrzej Wajda
Screenplay by: Andrzej Wajda,  Jerzy Andrzejewski
Music by: Jerzy Lipman
Produced by: Stanislaw Adler

Teresa Izewska,  Tadeusz Janczar,  Wienczyslaw Glinski,  Tadeusz Gwiazdowski,  Stanislaw Mikulski,  Emil Karewicz,  Vladek Sheybal,  Teresa Berezowska,  Zofja Lindorf,  Janina Jablonowska,  Maria Kretz

Film Length: 91 mins
Process/Ratio: 1.33:1
Black & White
Anamorphic DVD: No
Languages:  Polish Mono / English Subtitles
Special Features :  

Behind the scenes stills (4) / Poster Art (6)

Comments :

1957 Cannes Special Jury prize 1959 BAFTA Nomination for Most Promising Newcomer Award (Teresa Izewska )

The second film by renowned Polish director Andrzej Wajda, and middle part of his war trilogy (between “A Generation,” and “Ashes and Diamonds”), “Kanal” is a gritty, gripping tape of resistance fighters evading the Nazis, only to find themselves trapped in the sewers of Warsaw.

Wajda's approach to the subject matter is part minimalist and part realist; stripped of conventional Hollywood melodramatics, Wajda plunges his desperate characters into a labyrinth of human grime which no Hollywood studio would ever have considered during the ‘scope-obsessed Fifties. “Kanal” makes for a fascinating comparison, presenting emotionally battered men and women who struggle amid their disintegrating city. The film's beautiful lead actress, Teresa Izewska, plays a gutsy woman experienced in a life and death game of hide and seek, and is the only one who can find the way out from the underground maze – a positive change from the blonde furniture roles common to Hollywood war films of that decade.

Wajda shot the film using very low lights – at one point employing onscreen matches in the sewer tunnels – and while highly atmospheric, the look of the night and underground scenes in the transfer is very, very dark. This film has to be watched in a blacked out room, as any reflections will neuter the faint images that largely dominate the final act. Home Vision Entertainment's VHS is apparently made from a print from the Janus collection; Polart's DVD uses a converted PAL-mastered transfer, and while worn in spots, the transfer is okay, if not extreme in the contrasts. Some info regarding the film's cinematography would have cleared up Wajda and cinematographer Jerzy Lipman's intended look.

The original mono mix has been enhanced, adding some spatial depth, and doesn't suffer from the ‘drainpipe' affect found in other pseudo-stereo remixes.

A brief director Bio and filmography is included, and the small poster gallery features the original Polish campaign. Among movie posters, Polish designs are among the most arresting, often using minimalist imagery that's far more impressionable and indelible than action poses mixed with huge star visages. The “Kanal” design recalls Saul Bass' reductive art for “Joan of Arc,” and certainly sets the tone for what's a superbly crafted drama with uncompromising depictions of wandering souls. When actor Vladek Sheybal (better known as Kronsteen, in “From Russia With Love”) quotes Dante at one point, the irony hits you like a brick.

The Andrzej Wajda War Trilogy boxed set, from Criterion, includes new transfers of A Generation, Kanal, and Ashes and Diamonds.


© 2004 Mark R. Hasan

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