Walkover (Walkower) (13th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival/Masterpieces of Polish Cinema) Review
Andrzej Leszcyc (Jerzy Skolimowski) is an amateur boxer just about to hit thirty, realising that his days in the ring are numbered. He knew Teresa (Aleksandra Zawieroszanka) at University before he was expelled, and by chance he meets her again...
If Jerzy Skolimowski (born 1938) convinces as a boxer in the lead role of his second feature film, that's because he did take up the sport in his early twenties. He was also a published poet, short-story writer and playwright. A meeting with Andrzej Wajda led to his debut as co-writer of Wajda's 1960 film Innocent Sorcerers. However, while Andrzej is on the cusp of his thirtieth birthday, Skolimowski was actually twenty-seven when he made this film. Turning thirty is such a watershed for Andrzej that while today is his birthday he insists he's still twenty-nine for a few more hours because he was born at night, as if to hold off the moment for as long as possible. Andrzej had previously appeared in Skolimowski's debut, Identification Marks: None (Rysopis).
Walkover draws on a good few influences: the films of the French New Wave, which had made an impact for half a decade at the time, the interest in jazz, which had brought him in contact with the composer Krzysztof Komeda and through him filmmakers like Roman Polanski. (Skolimowski co-wrote Polanski's 1962 feature debut Knife in the Water, which is also showing in the Masterpieces of Polish Cinema season.) Walkover is very much a young man's film, the irony being that it's a film about someone (played by the writer-director) who's at the end of his career, made by someone near the start of his, clearly looking to show what he can do. As Andrzej and Teresa dance around each other, the camera dances round them both. The film features some highly mobile camerawork in some lengthy takes, one of them seemingly with the camera at first handheld, then operated from a moving vehicle and then elevated by a crane. And Skolimowski is clearly genuinely jumping from a moving train in another shot. A spare hour and a quarter is made up of just twenty-nine shots.
After his next film, Barrier, Skolimowski left Poland and made Le départ in Belgium. He returned to Poland to make Hands Up! (Ręce do góry), in which he played Andrzej Leszczyc again., banned by the censor at the time, he left the country. He has worked internationally since, including films made in the UK (Deep End, The Shout, Moonlighting Success is the Best Revenge), and the USA (The Lightship) as well as continental Europe. After a seventeen-year hiatus, he made Four Nights with Anna (Cztery noce z Anną) in Poland in 2008 and more recently Essential Killing.
Walkover is showing on 4 and 17 May at the BFI Southbank, London, as part of the Martin Scorsese Presents Masterpieces of Polish Cinema strand of the 13th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival. It is also showing at the Edinburgh Filmhouse on 13 May.