Sunday, June 09, 2019

RIP Ryszard Bugajski

I am very sad to report that a very interesting, under-appreciated filmmaker - who worked in Poland and Canada, and made several very powerful, compelling films - has died. Ryszard Bugajski made one of my favourite-ever Canadian films, Clearcut, which I have written about many times, and once screened at the Vancity Theatre. It's a film apparently stuck in copyright limbo - no one, last I heard, was sure of who owned the rights to it, which meant it has never had a proper DVD or Blu-Ray release - tho' a few different bootlegs exist (the German one is best) and you can see a not-bad, HD version of it on Youtube (the aspect ratio seems off compared to the German DVD, but the image seems crisp). 

Here's the thing: I have been waiting for an occasion to publish a long interview I did with Bugajski (not yet fully transcribed), spanning his whole career, but had hoped that it could be timed to an official DVD release of Clearcut, which WAS under discussion when we spoke. Portions of that interview were published apropos of the Clearcut screening in Vancouver, but there's much more. I helped put someone else in touch with Bugajski in regard to a screening of Clearcut, and I have written a couple of companies about possibly putting something out, including Criterion, suggesting they do an Eclipse box of Bugajski's major films... Second Run DVD were considering it for awhile, too... my understanding is that there is actually a good digital master available of the film, worthy of a Blu-Ray release, but I haven't been in the loop as to what was happening with that...

Unfortunately, with news of Mr. Bugajski's death, the occasion for publishing the interview seems to be now, or soon, since I have a project with a deadline I need to complete, first. My condolences to Bugajski's family, and apologies for having delayed publishing this interview for so long. I'll get it done this summer. I've seen several of Bugajski's films (The Interrogation, General Nil, The Closed Circuit, and Blindness) and they're remarkable, and have a real thematic consistency to them. The story of The Interrogation is fascinating in its own right - a harshly anti-Communist film made in Communist Poland, it also had a very complicated and circuitous distribution history, with many copies of it circulating underground on a bootleg level (as I recall, he facilitated that happening himself). General Nil, The Closed Circuit, and Blindness also all deal with people being tortured wrongly by an overbearing and corrupt authority. None of these films have come out on video in North America, to my knowledge, but people should see them (my favourite remains Clearcut). 

More to come...

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