The Eccentrics: The Sunny Side of the Street (Excentrycy: Czyli po słonecznej stronie ulicy) (15th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival)
Poland, the late 1950s. Fabian (Maciej Stuhr) returns to Poland from living abroad. Enthused by the music he had listened to overseas, he forms a swing band. The band is more successful than Fabian had anticipated, even more so when singer Modesta (Natalia Rybicka) joins the band, and they become lovers...
Janusz Majewski was born in 1931 and his first directing credit on the IMDB, a short film, dates from 1957, around the time this film is set. Cowritten with Włodzimierz Kowalewski, The Eccentrics is warm and nostalgic, but there's a more bitter taste beneath the surface. The late 1950s was a time when there was a significant cultural “thaw” in Polish society, with some of the old restrictions lifted, and a younger generation were beginning to feel cultural influences from outside the country. In this case, it's the jazz that Maciej plays, having heard it outside Poland. (Minor nitpick: when asked his previous residence, Maciej refers to the Welsh county of Powys, which didn't exist before 1974. Penybont, the village where he lived, would have been in Radnorshire at the time.) There are several musical numbers, staged with a real feel for the music by Majewski. The cast are actually singing and playing their instruments: Stuhr was a music student for ten years. Adam Bajerski's cinematography bathes the film in a honeyed glow.
Yet, for all its surface pleasure, and the success of the band, Maciej and Modesta are quite aware that they live in a restricted society, and dreams of a freer life in the West have an effect on their relationship. The authorities, and their censorship of this Communist country, are not far away, and the film draws to a bittersweet close.
The Eccentrics: The Sunny Side of the Street shows on 26 March at 7.30pm at the Regent Street Cinema, London, in the 15th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival, as part of the New Polish Cinema strand.