Sunday, April 13, 2008
21. Torrents Of Spring
Jerzy Skolimowski, one of the leading lights in modern Polish cinema, was born in 1938 in Lodz. After attending Warsaw University, where he mainly studied Literature and History, Skolimowski started out his career with quite a bang in 1960 with positions in front of and behind the camera.
Skolimowski’s earliest work finds him as an actor, writer and director…three roles he continues to play to this day (recently he can be seen as an actor in David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises). His greatest works as a director includes the rather stunning 1971 production Deep End, starring lovely Jane Asher and 1982’s Moonlighting, which helped put Jeremy Irons on the map.
Torrents Of Spring is not one of the great directors finest works but it is a valuable addition to his filmography, a film that is helped immeasurably by his cast that includes Nastassja working opposite Timothy Hutton and Valeria Golina.
Adapted from a Ivan Turgenev novel by Skolimowski and and several international collaborators, Torrents Of Spring is a smart and handsome production marred by a slightly draggy pace and a budget perhaps not high enough to really fulfill its ambitious needs.
Shot by the dream team of Witold Sobocinski and Dante Spinotti, Torrents Of Spring is a colorful jewel of a film to look at with both famed cinematographers delivering excellent work. Add on some terrific production and art design by Italian Francesco Bronzi, and you have an undervalued if flawed film well worth seeking out for a first or even second look.
One thing that gives Torrents of Spring its particularly distinctive feel that is a blessing and a detriment is how much of an international production it is. Shot by an exiled Polish director in the Czech Republic and Italy with a crew consisting of French, Italian and English speaking collaborators, Torrents Of Spring has an extremely exotic if ultimately uneven feel to it. One wishes Skolimowski would have made it a slightly more central based and intimate affair as ultimately it feels a bit too sprawling for its own good.
Still, despite some problems, Torrents Of Spring is a worthy production if just for the cast, its look and Skolimowski’s always sure hand behind the camera. The cast is an attractive if mixed bag with a miscast Hutton struggling with a Russian accent being its biggest fault. Golina is exceptional in her role as is William Forsythe and genre favorite Urbano Barberini.
Nastassja, not surprisingly, steals the show here and delivers one of her best and most heated performances of this part of her career. A huge step up from the tepid and poorly made Magdalene, Kinski is really radiant and powerfully seductive here (even when covered by an incredibly large and almost ridiculous wig). It is a shame that the talented Hutton is a bit out of his place here because he shares a nice chemistry with Kinski and the moments between them are the main highlights of the film.
The film would premiere at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival where Skolimowski was nominated for the Golden Palm. It did healthy, if not spectacular, business throughout Europe in late 1989 but flopped badly upon its American release in 1990. The murky full frame VHS of it that appeared a year or so later didn’t do it any favors, however the DVD is a much improved version and is worth seeking out.
Torrents Of Spring isn’t a great film by a long shot but fans of Kinski and Skolimowski should not miss it. The Region 1 DVD is still available and can be found online usually for under ten dollars. I will try and add some screen shots at a later date…