Monday, November 10, 2008

Made in Poland

Photo/Carol Rosegg

There's a Holden Caulfield anger brewing inside Bogus (Kit Williamson), and if you can't tell from the way he slams his iron pipe against the metal scaffolding that metaphorically represents his life as an unfinished construction site, he's got the words "Fuck Off" tattooed across his forehead. Good Father Edmund (Ed Vassallo) is willing to forgive him his reckless youth, provided Bogus is willing to work off the damages he's caused to the local phone booths and cars. But the real gangsters, Grzes, Tekla, and their suave boss Fazi (Ryan O'Nan, Eva Kaminsky, and Jayce Bartok), broken up about the ruined car they've stolen, aren't so forgiving. Just as Bogus terrorizes Emil (Jonathan Clem), a and mentally deficient cripple, the thugs turn on his mother, Irena (Karen Young), leaving Bogus to temporarily give up on his revolution so that he and his former teacher, an alcoholic named Viktor (Rob Campbell), can settle up.

Was something lost in Alissa Valles's transition? It's possible: there's no American parallel for the strange devotion and peace these characters all find in Krzysztof Krawczyk, a real pop singer. But even universal moments, like Bogus's awkward pursuit of his beloved Monika (Natalia Zvereva), don't sound right. Granted, this is a boy desperate to find something to believe in, but it's hard to take him or his circumstances seriously when he's perpetually in a mad rage.

The lack of levels in Jackson Gay's direction are ultimately what hurt Made in Poland the most. The violence is farcical, the situations are implausible, and there isn't a single character who acts rational: as Viktor puts it, "I think you're just acting out a part. And you're just as bad as those TV actors you hate so much." Trapped in the mode of a hyperviolent soap opera, Viktor's sucked into that as well, inexplicably drinking himself into a stupor and then quarreling with his ex-wife, who shows up just long enough to throw a box of records at him. What little substance there is is crammed into a out-of-the-blue clash between the atheistic Viktor and the religious Edmund, with Bogus caught looking for a better way, realizing (after getting the shit kicked out of him) that perhaps violence isn't an effective solution.

The anarchist impulses of Fight Club were at least directed by broader statements about society, but Przemyslaw Wojcieszek's writing is focused so narrowly on a punk/sharpskin aesthetic that it's impossible to get inside Bogus's head, or to extract something resonant from him. "How does one live?" is a question well worth exploring; unfortunately, that tattoo on Bogus's head seems to be the answer--at the least, those big, black, gothic letters prevent us from seeing anything else.

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