Kino Mania: Bird Talk (2019)

Starring: Stefan Fabijański, Sebastian Pawlak, Andrzej Chyra, Daniel Olbrychski
Directed by: Xawery Żuławski
Rating: ★★★★☆

Arty or not, cinema sometimes has the power of healing rifts between parents and children who have chosen the same profession. In Father and Son on a Journey (2013) the documentarian Paweł Loziński embarked with his dad Marcel on an emotionally painful road trip to France to heal their relationship.

The case of Xawery Żuławski is different, as he was asked to do as he wished with the script his father Andrzej handed to him from his deathbed more than two years ago. Mowa ptaków (Bird Talk) is cinematic catwalk of characters with borderline personalities chirping literary quotes and not less talkative than the roles featured in Cosmos (2015), the final film of Żuławski Senior.

Set in contemporary Warsaw, Bird Talk visually captures (unintentionally or not) the vaguely shabby mood of the nineties in Poland. Żuławski Junior did not intend to convey any nostalgia for the past in his third feature film, though. The teachers Marian (Stefan Fabijański) and Ludwik (Sebastian Pawlak), who are sacked from school after a confrontation in a classroom with ultra-nationalist students, are fully immersed in a present that is incompatible with their ideals.

But in Bird Talk all the characters are round and vital despite a precarious existence. They have to take it one day at a time to survive against the buzz of the clero-fascist displays of power with its dark marches and chants of hatred at the stadium. The central character Marian is an inveterate flaneur who looks taken from an early film by Jerzy Skolimowski. He is also an aspiring artist incapable of deciding between cinema and literature. Marian continues to spit out with vehemence his own thoughts on famous writers but cannot restrain himself from repeatedly making the gesture of the camera frame with his hands.

Bird Talk is embellished with a myriad of witty allusions to the daring and radical filmography of Zurawski Sr., played here by Daniel Olbrychski. Fabijański-Marian curls his mouth into the fiendish and sharp smile of Wojciech Pszoniak in the controversial horror film The Devil (1972). There is certainly more Godard than Truffaut in this convincing essay of cinematic impudence (with a very pop finale) which was nearly ruled out from the Gdynia Film Festival this year.

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