Ashes and Diamonds 08/14/21
Andrzej Wajda’s most celebrated film in the West is a serious thriller about postwar doubt and corruption in a Poland ‘liberated’ by the Soviet Union. It has a cerebral script and a hero with a hipster attitude befitting a window of relative freedom briefly given to Polish filmmakers. Touted as the James Dean of the Eastern Bloc, the dashing Zbigniew Cybulski cuts an image as clean as J.F.K.. But his character, an assassin working for the reactionaries, undergoes a crisis of conscience. The miracle is that the Party censors allowed any doubt as to what our hero’s path should be. Given a stylized, almost expressionist B&W look, Wajda’s masterpiece is an intelligent thinkpiece that lays off the direct propagandizing. The new disc has significant new extras. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.