Director: Jerzy Skolimowski
Screenplay: Jerzy Skolimowski, Andrzej Kostenko
Starring: Jerzy Skolimowski, Elżbieta Czyżewska, Jacek Szczęk, Joanna Szczerbic, Tadeusz Łomnicki
Year: 1965/1967/1981
Duration: 71 min/76 min
Country: Poland
BBFC Certification: 15

Hitched to the strong shoulders and big heart of 2022’s EO, the BFI have been hosting a season of Jerzy Skolimowski’s films culminating in the release of two of his earliest on blu-ray. In a career that has bounced around the globe, bounced around in tone and, indeed financial success (the commercial failure of 1984’s Success is the Best Revenge cost him his house and forced him to relocate from the UK to America), Skolimowski has never failed to unite compelling, inventive imagery with contemplative narrative.

His early features saw him described as a one-man Polish New Wave. Identification Marks: None is certainly vague enough. Constructed from several shorts, Skolimowski himself stars, because he was the only lead actor he knew would always be available over the three years it took to shoot. As Andrzej Leszczyc, Skolimowski abandons student life and reports for conscription in the army. The film follows his last few hours of civilian life as he argues with his girlfriend, loses his dog, flirts, flounders and tries to settle on who he might wish to be. Beautifully and inventively shot, the narrative doesn’t become more than the sum of its parts. A series of events, some more affecting and engaging than others. It needs a sauce to bring it all together as a dish and the stunningly inventive cinematography – realism reaching for something more operatic – isn’t quite enough to achieve that.

The second film, Hands Up! couldn’t be more different. To hell with realism, let’s luxuriate in cinematic poetry, wild visuals and political text combined to form the film that saw Skolimowski effectively exiled from Poland as the film fell foul of the censor. The original was re-edited by Skolimowski in 1981 with a twenty minute introductory section contextualising the film and the effect its treatment had on both his career and his confidence. Long pans of bombed-out Beirut playing alongside Penderecki is catnip to this jaded old aesthete and Hands Up! is a feast of ideas, artistry and heart.

The films are complimented by a pair of informative commentaries from critic and scholar, Michał Oleszczyk; a wonderful guided tour through Skolimowski’s early career from the ever-wise Michael Brooke and an audio interview conducted with Skolimowski in 1983 at the National Film Theatre. The first pressing also contains a booklet with writing from Ewa Mazierska and David Thompson.

Identification Marks: None and Hands Up! are released in the UK by the BFI as a box set on the 24th April. The picture quality is generally excellent though it should be noted that Identification Marks: None shows the limitations of its rather rough and ready creation, the picture rather murky and grainy throughout.

Special Features

– Newly recorded audio commentaries on both films by critic and scholar Michał Oleszczyk (2023)
– The Boxing Ichthyologist (2023, 32 mins): writer Michael Brooke introduces us to the early Polish films of Jerzy Skolimowski in this newly commissioned video essay
– Archive interview with Jerzy Skolimowski (1983, audio only, 43 mins): the director discusses his early work in an interview recorded at the BFI’s National Film Theatre
– Stills galleries
– **FIRST PRESSING ONLY** Illustrated booklet with new writing on the films by Ewa Mazierska, an essay by David Thompson on the career of Jerzy Skolimowski and film credits::

Hands Up! / Identification Marks: None - Two Films by Jerzy Skolimowski - BFI
Identification Marks: None
Hands Up!
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About The Author

As a ghost writer, Guy has kicked heroin, robbed a casino, worked as a prison doctor and enjoyed the riches that come as part of being a hugely successful YouTuber. When feeling more himself, he is the author of The Clown Service novels, the Heavens Gate trilogy and the famous sixties newspaper strip that never existed, Goldtiger. He also writes comics for various publishers including 2000AD. He has twice been a finalist in the BBC Audio Drama Awards and as well as writing hundreds of hours of Doctor Who is the co-author of Arkham County for Audible and Children of the Stones for BBC Sounds. He also writes about and reviews and watches and watches and watches film. He lives in Eastbourne with fellow author and live-in genius AK Benedict and their daughters (one hairy and canine, the other human) Verity and Dame Margaret Rutherford.

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