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Life Incubates Art

Sweet Rush (2009)

The Film Society of Lincoln Center/
Les Films du Losange

“Katyń” appears to be the masterpiece for which Andrzej Wajda, the Polish auteur and four-time Oscar nominee in the best foreign language film category, spent his entire career preparing to make. Although anything that followed would probably seem trivial next to the 2007 epic about the Katyń massacre, Mr. Wajda’s new film, “Sweet Rush,” is just as spellbinding and personal of a film.

Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz’s eponymous short story about a doctor’s terminally ill wife (Krystyna Janda) spending her last days forging a relationship with a young man (Pawel Szajda) is actually the story of a movie within the movie. Mr. Wajda has apparently wanted to adapt Iwaszkiewicz’s “Sweet Rush” for quite sometime, but Ms. Janda could not commit because her husband, cinematographer and Mr. Wadja’s frequent collaborator Edward Kłosiński, was dying of lung cancer.

The Polish master breaks the fourth wall a few times in the film, allowing Ms. Janda to step out of her character and recount her late husband’s battle with cancer in a series of soliloquies. When other filmmakers call attention to the medium itself, there’s always an air of smugness in those meta moments. But in “Sweet Rush,” the art form almost seems trivial in the face of real-life tragedy. Nevertheless, the film is a testament to Mr. Wadja’s craft, and the movie within a movie seems so serendipitously magical that there’s no mistaking it for the decidedly artless portions based on Ms. Janda’s life.


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