The Last Day of Summer (Ostatni dzień lata) (13th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival/Masterpieces of Polish Cinema) Review
A woman (Irena Laskowska) is alone on a beach on the Baltic coast, on the final day of her holiday. She is approached by a man (Jan Machulski) who has admired her from afar for the two weeks she has been on holiday. At first she is wary of him, but a closer bond develops, though she does not want to commit to a relationship...
The Last Day of Summer (Ostatni dzień lata) was considered an "experimental" film, though that was in part due to the sparseness of its resources: a crew of five, a cast of two, one location and a running time of just over an hour. Our two unnamed characters circle round each other for the duration of the film, but something keeps them from making a full connection. We have hints, of her lost love during the war. Meanwhile, jets flying overhead give the film an unsettling, almost apocalyptic tone. It's the last day of summer, as the woman will be returning home tomorrow, but it's an ending as well. Pay attention to the woman's voiceover at the start (including quotes from Tadeusz Różewicz’s poem "Voices" ("Głosy")) as it does pay off in the final stages of the film.
Most filmographies credit Tadeusz Konwicki as the writer and director and Jan Laskowski (the leading lady's brother) as the cinematographer (it's well shot in black and white) but the end credits actually only co-credit them as directors. Their film is a small piece, of details and nuances and atmosphere rather than of a plot in the usual sense, and resembles some of the work of the French New Wave – though was made before the first New Wave films were released. Like many a work in a minor key, it has a way of lingering in the mind.
Tadeusz Konwicki went on to solo-write and solo-direct Jump (Salto), which also features Irena Laskowska, in 1965 and also features in the present Masterpieces of Polish Cinema season as co-screenwriter of Mother Joan of the Angels and Pharoah. Laskowski solo-directed on other feature film, Men on the Island (Mezczyzni na wyspie) but continued to work as a cinematographer, including Night Train (Pociąg, also showing in the Masterpieces season) and Goodbye, See You Tomorrow ( Do widzenia, do jutra), before his death in 2014.
The Last Day of Summer had a British cinema release, somewhen between December 1958, when the BBFC passed it, and August 1961 when it had its Monthly Film Bulletin review. It hasn't had further exposure in the UK, with no television showings I can trace, until now.
The Last Day of Summer is showing on 26 and 28 April at the BFI Southbank, London, as part of the Martin Scorsese Presents Masterpieces of Polish Cinema strand of the 13th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival.