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Foreign Comedy - Poland- Bad Luck / Zezowate Szczescia

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Bad Luck - Zezowate Szcescia
Bogumil Kobiela, cameo by Roman Polanski
Directed by Andrzej Munk
Black & White
Polish with English subtitles
Facets Multimedia 2005

Had Polish director not died in 1960 at the age of forty his films, like Bad Luck and Eroica, would probably be standard curriculum fare in most film schools.  As it is now, he is one of those directors from behind the former iron curtain the public is discovering just now.  This movie is a comedy of the absurd that will most certainly please those who enjoy such films and stories about comic nobodies who have life happen to them. 

Although a lot of the jokes in Bad Luck are related to Polish history and culture so will not be understood by a western or non-Polish audience, there is more than enough black humor to keep that audience interested.  Bogumil Kobiela is brilliant as the very unheroic Piszczyk, the main character in this movie.  He has a great talent for physical comedy that director Munk more than exploits in many very Chaplin like scenes and moments.  Particularly funny is the very short scene in the arms factory where Piszczyk almost drops a bomb or two as he carries them from one place to another.

Perhaps the darkest joke in this movie is that what Piszczyk sees as a terrible run of bad luck governing his life is really a series of events he got himself into and, often, was lucky to get out of.  We are told this life through a series of flashbacks as he tries to convince someone (you will find out later who) not to let him go.   He decides to join the army to impress a girl but is too late to do so as the Germans invade the next day.  He is found in a Polish military uniform he put on o see what he would look like in it and is made a POW where he entertains his fellow soldiers until he is discovered as a fraud.  He gets a job in an armament factory but is canned for incompetence so this gives him a letter he can use whenever he is stopped by the German patrols.  He becomes successful in the black market but joins the resistance so as to seduce another girl.  There are many other such events until he tries to comically kill a colleague who has set him up for his greatest downfall.

Munk most certainly had great knowledge of the silent comedy as he often uses some of its tricks to great effect.  Bad Luck (Zezowate Szczescie) is also probably one of those subtle comedies made in the communist era where everything is a message below the harmless looking façade.  Piszczyk and his everyman insistence that he was just trying to get along and be happy and that nothing is his fault when often it is is also probably a veiled barb at Munk's compatriots.

Bad Luck is very interesting and funny though perhaps a bit long -although the language and cultural barriers probably cause that feeling.  It is in almost pristine shape on this DVD release with only about 3 seconds of film where you can tell the effects of time.

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