"In the Neobaroque Junkyard of Looping paths": The Films of Woyciech Jerzy Has

Presenter: Dr. Zofia Kolbuszewska


7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Harlem Road Community Center
4255 Harlem Rd, Amherst
Members: Free; Non-members: $5 donation

Contact: Charles Peszynski
(716) 631-3717

by Zofia Kolbuszewska

Professor, Dept. of English

Catholic University, Lublin;

2010-11 Kosciuszko Foundation

Teaching Scholar


Wojciech Jerzy Has (1925-2000), the Polish filmmaker of exuberantly

painterly sensibility, began making self-reflexive poetic feature films luxuriating

in baroque visual overabundance in the late 1950s. In Europe & the

US he has been identified by cinema cognoscenti as the director of the

esoteric, black and white film, Saragossa Manuscript [Rkopis znaleziony

w Saragossie] (1965), based on an arcane Romantic novel with a Chinese

box narrative structure, written in French by a Polish count. In 1995,

along with Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, Jerry Garcia, the

lead guitarist and vocalist of the rock band The Grateful Dead, helped

fund a restoration of this by now cult film, which was a favorite of, among

others, Luis Buñuel. The Chinese-American writer Maxine Hong Kingston

has a character in her novel Tripmaster Monkey—His Fake Book (1987)

expatiate on Saragossa Manuscript over 3 pages, while in The Secret

Lives of Puppets, Victoria Nelson mentions The Hour-Glass Sanatorium

[Sanatorium pod klepsydr] (1973), another intriguing film by Has familiar

to spectators in Europe and the US, an adaptation of the short stories by

Bruno Schulz, the Polish-Jewish writer considered a Polish Kafka.

By participating in the aesthetic of Neobaroque, Has’s films engage in

negotiating alternative, provisional, yet uncertain identities and cultural

expressions, which emerge as a result of a subversion of the major discourses

of the modern Polish/European culture by the marginalized, often

pre-modern discourses, in the process of deterritorialization under way at

the boundaries & territories considered marginal, provincial and peripheral.

In pushing to the extreme the excessive representation of, for instance,

the monolithic structure of the Polish Romantic myth Has induces

a confusion in its system of symbols, which turns them into dispersed and

unintelligible signs. By interrogating the multiplicity of parallel worlds comprised

in oneiric spacio-temporal continuum folding in on itself his films

self-consciously reflect on “the abyss of representability” (Moraña) and

reveal “the ostensibly unrepresented […] as still being a function of representation”

(Egginton ).



Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Harlem Road Community Center