Hooray for Holly-Łódź: Cinema 3 – Polonia Kino, Movie 3 – The Extra Man (4/6)

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16:10pm Polonia Kino, Piotrkowska 67

The El Mariachi band will file in around twilight.

Polonia Kino is a sister cinema to Bałtyk and a fellow member of the Helios cinema chain (something equivalent to Odeon). Out of all the cinemas featured in this little project Polonia has perhaps the most ideal location, as it is housed toward the rear of a courtyard, just opposite The Grand Hotel, slap-bang in the centre of the city. There are at least two decent coffee shops barely a 50m walk from the cinema, as well as some of the best bars in the city within a 200m radius. Within the courtyard itself you have the added bonus of a longstanding Mexican theme restaurant, as well as the best of the Łódź Presto franchise Italian restaurants (one of the best value places to eat in the whole city). The exterior of Polonia looks like a traditional two-storey picturehouse, with a large foyer area and three screens. The concessions are a bit more tuckshop style than Bałtyk. I paid for 4 zł for a bottle of Sprite, which despite having been in a chiller was lukewarm at best.

A post-war raised letterbox screen is featured in all three of Polonia's compact auditoria.

Whereas Bałtyk tends to focus on 3D fare, big-budget blockbusters, kids movies and Polish releases, Polonia has diversified into indie fare, non-mainstream American releases and European cinema. My abiding memory of Polonia is as the cinema that I’d visit to watch those quiet little films like The Straight Story, About Schmidt and Genova. It seems fitting then that the movie I hustled up to see today was a low-key oddity starring Paul Dano and Kevin Kline, called The Extra Man. Sadly I was one of only two people in the cinema to watch the film. The screens in Polonia are classically raised, letterbox affairs, of the kind utilised by most provincial European picturehouses during the latter half of the last century. Being quite narrow horizontally it gives the impression that the image is somehow compacted, but really the projection is to ratio, with nothing missing from the frame. Initially the projection was slightly squint, but that was quickly corrected by the projectionist (how quaint) and, as with Bałtyk, the image quality was impressively clean throughout. Sound was functional without having the superior surround range of Bałtyk’s vast auditorium, however that is wholly appropriate for the more intimate charms of Polonia’s cinematic fare. The pricing for Polonia was exactly the same as Bałtyk, with my afternoon ticket costing 17zł. My sole serious complaint would be the prompt start time of the film, which means a complete absence of trailer material.

Cinema Experience: 8/10


Paul Dano is one of the most unusual performers currently working in Hollywood and his curious, slightly bruised, physical features and carefully mannered acting style made him a perfect piece of casting in this solid adaptation of Jonathan ‘Bored to Death’ Ames novel. At first the curious rose-tinted period vignette at the beginning of the movie threw me. I momentarily thought I was going to be subjected to the kind of retro-irony to be found in Todd Haynes Far From Heaven. However I was pleasantly surprised to see the way in which this gentle comedy-drama wended its way between the various different New York eccentrics that Ames loves to fixate upon. In the end it brought to mind the John Hurt and Jason Priestley feature Love and Death in Long Island.

The directing and writing team of Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman previously brought Harvey Pekar’s curmudgeonly comic book genius to the big screen in American Splendor and they do a fairly good job  of capturing some of the inspired slapstick and pathos of Ames’ source novel. They are aided on this front by a wonderful performance from Kevin Kline as the contrarily Catholic upper-class gigolo Henry Harrison. Every time that Kline shared the screen with Dano, the younger actor seemed to significantly raise his game, in much the same way as he did in the presence of Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will be Blood.

The quietly affecting absurdism of the film’s central idea, namely the confused sexual identity of Dano’s Louis Ives, provokes some laugh-out-loud funny moments, particular a sequence in which Kline rubs a small lap-dog all over his body to try to transfer fleas to the mutt, but the general tenor of the movie is that of gracefully declining elegy and nostalgia. In some ways it is a companion piece to my last viewing of the night, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, which similarly deals with a central character who feels woefully out of touch with modernity. The Extra Man is by no means a masterpiece but in its own minor manner it manages to cast a compelling spell upon the attentive viewer, that can induce tears of both joy and sadness from such quirky sights as two men dancing upon a beach in the Hamptons. It also manages to pose the question: why isn’t Katie Holmes in more films?

Film Rating: 6.5/10


Hooray for Holly-Łódź: Cinema 1 – Bałtyk Kino, Movie 1 – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2/6)


9:30am Bałtyk Kino, Prezydenta Gabriela Narutowicza 20

Don't be deceived by the leisure centre exterior and tacky Oscar statue, this is one of the best cinemas I have ever been to.

The thing I love most about being in a city with over 500,000 people and an intense love of film is the fact that you are guaranteed to find at least one cinema screening films at a ridiculously early hour of the day. When I first lived in Łódź, Bałtyk Kino did a particularly good job of catering to my irregular film-going hours, providing me with early morning schedules as well as late-night double feature retrospectives and epic all-night movie marathons. Back in 2001 Bałtyk was still a heavyweight Łodż cinema, with the multiplexes only just having emerged on the Polish cinema landscape. Now owned by the Helios cinema group (who also own Polonia and ran the now defunct Kapitol in the city), Bałtyk has been around since 1927. During the Communist period in Poland it underwent a massive expansion, broadly in line with many of the state-owned Adria cinemas, which left it with a massive main screen, that can comfortably seat 750 viewers in one screening. It’s also one of the few curved screens in Poland, which make it ideal for the perfect presentation of widescreen features.

Until 2003 the cinema was just off Narutowicza, one of the main streets that horizontally bisects Piotrkowksa. Since then the location has remained the same, but the cinema is now at the rear of the newly constructed Philharmonic Hall, with a tunnel-like passageway leading to the main entrance, that oddly lends Bałtyk the air of a grotto. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the cinema’s exterior is the somewhat tacky giant Oscar statue that is appended to the wall beside the foyer.

Having had my early morning caffeine fix and taken the short hop from Piotrkowska to Narutowicza, I was surprised to see how little had changed since I’d last been in the cinema, a few years ago. The foyer is still absurdly poky and entirely disproportionate to the size of the screens that lie behind it. In the foyer you have a decent concessions stand that stocks a selection of sweets and crisps, the usual soft drinks and popcorn, as well as a few more ‘luxurious’ items such as ice-cream and nachos. With it being so early in the day, not even a glutton like myself required any hasty nourishment.

One of Bałtyk's superior cinema auditoria, with a massive curved screen for the perfect presentation of Widescreen cinematic releases.

The film I went to see was the latest installment of the Mission Impossible franchise, entitled Mission Impossible: Ghost Franchise. Since the opening of multiplexes like Silver Screen and Cinema City, Bałtyk has tended to focus on screening Polish cinema releases and films that are best suited to projection upon its gigantic main screen. The MI film was being shown on the main screen, which features state-of-the-art Dolby Digital Surround Sound and one of the clearest projections I’ve witnessed in any cinema, ever. The seats are comfortable, being cushioned and yet firm, with plenty of leg space. The rows of seats slope gently upwards away from the screen, but due to the colossal size of the screen there would be little hope of my view being blocked, even if more than the two people in attendance had shown up. Despite being almost alone in the auditorium I felt entirely immersed in a classic cinema-viewing experience and thoroughly enjoyed the film. I can remember previous visits to Bałtyk (the first Lord of the Rings movie in particular) when this main auditorium was packed out and the atmosphere was genuinely electric, seeming much more like a live theatrical event. Despite having to endure increased competition Bałtyk is still an immense cinema, that projects films the way that the director has intended them to be projected. Finally, it doesn’t skimp on the trailers (a vital part of the cinema-going experience) unlike its fellow Helios stablemate Polonia. The price of my ticket was an early morning bargain of just 13 zł (normally 14 zł), with standard ticket prices being 17zł.

Cinema Experience: 10/10


In terms of the film Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was a welcome return to form for a franchise that had looked dead in the water last time out. Tom Cruise may increasingly be looking his age, but he can still deliver a solid performance in the action hero stakes. Cruise obviously had creative control over the project and has been able to equip himself with a solid supporting cast and a good director (Brad Bird coming over from Pixar animation). Jeremy Renner is a welcome addition to the team and lends some dramatic heft to proceedings, whilst Simon Pegg gives good geek as the guy with all the gadgets and Paula Patton is a game and very physical female lead. The movie also manages to find two admirable Euro-villains in Léa Seydoux’s blonde assassin and Michael Nyqvist fanatical physicist, both of whom are eerily self-contained.

There isn’t really much that’s revelatory about the plotting, but MI has rarely been about the story. Intriguingly Cruise and Co. seem to have set their sights on inhabiting the middle-ground between the cool glamour and bravado of the Bond franchise and the gritty, globe-hopping, techno hyper-realism of the Bourne series. The film particular excels in its action set pieces, the most notable of which include: an all-out Russian prison riot, the detonation of the Kremlin and a bit of extreme base-jumping on the world’s tallest building, in Dubai. The BMW corporation clearly provided much of the funding for the movie, as not only do the latest prototype models get an early airing, but the films climactic sequence actually occurs in one of the companies plants. Barely halting to draw breath Cruise seems hell-bent on putting his character, Ethan Hunt, through some of the most adrenalin-fuelled sequences to grace the silver screen in 2011. The film even manages to end with a strangely satisfying emotional coda, that sees Renner and Cruise flex a little acting muscle. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable, big budget romp.

Film Rating: 6/10