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Cinema. “Dangerous Gentlemen” directed by Maciej Kawalski [RECENZJA]

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“Dangerous Gentlemen” is a very successful cinematic debut of Maciej Kawalski: he created a comedy in which he lightly plays with film conventions and aesthetics. In this perverse story about the surprising effects of an event, anything can happen. And there’s a lot going on.

“Dangerous Gentlemen” by Maciej Kawalski is another proof that the domestic cinema of the middle is doing well. And it is not an easy task. Why? Completely theoretically: the cinema of the middle fills the entire space between auteur and commercial cinema. Therefore, films should refer to what is best in auteur cinema and be accessible to the widest possible audience. In the case of comedy, the task is even more difficult, because it is a genre on which many native artists have failed. Many of them provided more reasons for embarrassment than laughter.

“Dangerous Gentlemen”. A grotesque history lesson

The debuting Kawalski showed extraordinary courage, and the production trio – Agnieszka Dziedzic, Leszek Bodzak and Aneta Hickinbotham – trusted and believed in the filmmaker’s idea. “Dangerous Gentlemen” takes us to Zakopane at the beginning of the 20th century, into the world of thick parties of the Polish artistic bohemia. We enter it at the moment when Tadeusz Żeleński wakes up heavily hungover in the house of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz “Witkacy”. It turns out that Bronisław Malinowski and Joseph Conrad also took part in these revels. A point needs to be made here so as not to give too much away.

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To be clear: Dangerous Gentlemen is not a historical comedy. Kawalski creates a party that, with such a list of guests, never took place. At least there’s no evidence of it. And this is not about historical truth. On the other hand, Kawalski, meticulously doing his history lessons, enjoys it in an excellent way, showing a distance that is very rare in Polish cinematography. The galaxy of “great Poles”, “national treasures”, appears here in a grotesque version. And each of them, apart from a historical name, has been equipped with selected elements of their own biography. Is there anything wrong with that? I do not think so. After all, they were all only human – talented, outstanding, but still human.

“Dangerous Gentlemen” dir. Maciej KawalskiCinema World

“Dangerous Gentlemen”. A reflective look at social hypocrisy

The more so that Kawalski not only deals frivolously with legends, but also with conventions and film styles. Thanks to the fact that he does not force himself to break down the wheel, he delivers a dark comedy with elements of a crime story, in which there is something extremely fresh. Even if the viewer sees in “Dangerous Gentlemen” associations with other titles. Of course, after disassembling the film and its plot, it may turn out that we have already seen many of them in the cinema. After all, you don’t have to be a cinema historian not to feel the spirit of the new wave French comedies and satires, as well as the atmosphere of film adaptations of Agatha Christie’s novels.

In the visual layer (photographs and editing) you can see a common denominator with hits directed by Rian Johnson. This is neither a weakness of “Dangerous Gentlemen”, nor an allegation against the creators of the title. Ultimately, it is Kawalski’s asset that he is aware of how to provide viewers with great and intelligent entertainment. The undoubted strength of his debut is that it immersed the whole thing in thick mists of absurdity. It may not be as intellectually engaging as the films of Wes Anderson, Ruben Oestlund, Maren Ade, Quentin Tarantino or Sean Baker, but there is something equally grotesque, campy and biting about Dangerous Gentlemen.

“Dangerous Gentlemen” is a funny, intelligent, reflective and painfully current film. With Gabriela Zapolska’s precision, she reminds us of social hypocrisy, pride and social inequality. And the whole sequence of scenes in the theater, where you can feel the spirit of Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds”, should be included in cinema theory textbooks as a perfect example of paraphrase. In recent years, we have not lacked spectacular directorial debuts. If Kawalski remains faithful to his vision, intuition and sense of humor in his subsequent titles, he has a great chance of finding himself alongside such classics of Polish comedy as Stanisław Bareja, Sylwester Chęciński and Marek Koterski.

“Dangerous Gentlemen” (Poland, 2022, 107 minutes)
director: Maciej Kawalski script: Maciej Kawalski cast: Tomasz Kot, Andrzej Seweryn, Marcin Dorociński, Wojciech Mecwaldowski, Michał Czernecki, Anna Smołowik, Anna Terpiłowska

Tomasz Kot and Andrzej Seweryn in “Dangerous Gentlemen”Cinema World

Author:Tomasz-Marcin Wrona

Main photo source: Cinema World

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