Monday, April 3, 2017

ALL THESE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS: Michal Marczak's entry into the hybrid doc genre

Something akin to the recently reviewed All This Panic, which covers the life of adolescent American girls in New York City as they come to terms with the adulthood that lies ahead, the new Polish hybrid documentary ALL THESE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS would appear to want to do the same using as protagonists a couple of young Polish men located in Warsaw. Both films, though said to be documentaries, are created with such visual immediacy and flair, using dialog that often seems written rather than spoken, that they more closely resemble narrative films.

Michal Marczak, the film's director and co-writer (along with Katarzyna Szczerba) uses a style that immediately immerses us in his protagonists and their world -- at least that part of their world that he chooses for us to experience. Mr. Marczak, shown at right, begins his film with an explanation of what he calls "The Reminiscence Bump": the tendency of human beings to hang onto memories of adolescence and young adulthood above all others.

And why not? Those are such formative and memorable years, after all. So gorgeously composed, shot and edited is the film that for some while it is easy to overlook the very sexist stance the movie adopts (and then runs with), as our two young men -- Krzysztof Baginski (above, right) and Michal Huszcza (above, left) -- talk to each other but then, when they interact with young women, talk at them. The ladies are objects to possess and play with, but god help the boys, particularly Krzys who becomes the main protagonist here, when some real intimacy is required.

The objectification continues via some full-frontal nudity, of  course featuring one of the young women, while our boys barely bother to take off more than a shirt. At one point, while playing their sex games, the girl mentions what an enormous cock Krzys possesses, but, while she can disrobe and show it all off, his body remains almost entirely off limits. Further, while a huge strain of homo-eroticism binds the two boys, this, too, is completely unexplored, save for some noticeable jealousy on the part of Michal.

All this builds up overtime, and because we learn almost nothing about the background of the two young men -- are they from wealth? Certainly neither seem to work nor even attend school -- the behavior of Krzys, in particular, grows tiresome and annoying. He takes self-involvement to new heights (or depths), even for an aging adolescent, and eventually we see him pretty much entirely as the rather typical male chauvinist prick. (Note the scene in which he walks through a traffic jam in which drivers have gotten out of their cars and are standing in the street to see what's going on. Krzys pays no attention to the one woman we see, nearly knocking into her door, while he carefully walks around all the men who are standing at the door of their cars.)

There's plenty -- too much, actually -- dancing and drugs along the way, which adds to the film's length while not giving us any more characterization. By the finale, I have the sense that the filmmaker wants us to feel happy and encouraged by the state of our "hero" who, looking rather drugged up, is now dancing in the midst of oncoming traffic. But as we've seen no real change or growth in our Krzys, we're just waiting for his next mini-meltdown.

Comparisons have been made between the style of this film and the French new wave. They may be apt, certainly in terms of how sexist were some of those earlier directors (Godard, anyone?). Visually, All These Sleepless Nights is indeed fun to view. And young Mr. Baginski (above) has a face the camera loves. But style, even when coupled to male beauty, can only go so far. From The Orchard and running a little-too-long at 104 minutes, the movie opens this Friday, April 7, in Los Angeles (at the Landmark NuArt) and San Francisco (at Landmark's Opera Plaza Cinema) and on April 14 in New York City (at the IFC Center). 

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