The Good, The Bad and The Polish
by Boyd van Hoeij
06/09/2006 - The Horizons section at the Venice Film Festival is the place for eclectic discoveries, and the first Polish western is certainly an ambitious and eclectic project that is right at home on the Lido horizon.
"Neither an homage nor a parody", according to first-time director Piotr Uklanski, Summer Love [trailer] is instead "an allegorical film that uses the language of a western [and] exploits cinema's most codified genre to address issues of ethnic identity and cultural authenticity". Though unevenly paced, the film is a lot of fun to watch, as it tries to simultaneously skew and recreate the typical archetypes of the genre.
None of the characters even have a name in Summer Love, which was shot entirely on location in Poland with a mostly Polish crew. The landscapes, houses and clothes all look right at home in the genre, though, as the director notes, "Summer Love is a film that attempts to produce a culturally specific product (a western) in a foreign context (Poland)".
The story is so rooted in its genre that it can be understood from the rugged faces of the characters: the drunk sheriff (Boguslaw Linda) goes up against the newly arrived stranger (Karel Roden), fighting over – amongst other things – a wanted man (Val Kilmer) and a saloon bar maid (Katarzyna Figura).
The film is full of humour, both visual (a point-of-view shot from a head separated from its body, a gibbet used as a swing, a sex scene in which the characters' bodies spell the word "sex") and in the film's dialogue, which ranges from the campy – "Do you know what that means? That means nothing, but you did not know that" – to a conscious recycling of famous lines in new contexts. Viewers of Summer Love will also never look at the combination of Val Kilmer and tomatoes in the same way again.
The film was produced by Polski Western; by producers Staffan Ahrenberg from Sweden, New Zealand’s Hamish Skeggs, as well as Uklanski. International sales are being handled by Ancramdale Media.