Cosmos

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Andrzej Zulawski

Starring

Johan Libéreau Jonathan Genet

Anticipation.

Zulawski seems to have only recently received the critical dues he deserves.

Enjoyment.

What the hell just happened?!

In Retrospect.

Re-watching this one over and over will be a pleasure, not a chore.

Don’t miss this masterful, macabre swansong from mad Polish maestro Andrzej Zulawski.

Someone has gone to the trouble of creating a little noose out of string and hanging a sparrow from a branch by its neck. Happening across this macabre sculpture, jittery lothario Witold (Jonathan Genet) and his fashion designer pal Fuchs (Johan Libéreau) decide to dedicate some of their spare time to cultivating an investigation.

They take a room in a family-run guest house, entering into a lop-sided bubble of surreal squabbles, experimental seafood suppers and erotically ingested cigarettes. Polish director Andrzej Zulawski died shortly after the premiere of Cosmos at the 2015 Locarno Film Festival, but he has left us with a giddy masterwork whose every frame positively heaves with stimulating ideas and incident. Adapted from the absurdist 1965 novel by fellow Pole Witold Gombrowicz, it’s a story propelled less by logic than by its willingness to connect together symbols and clues in a rabid search for its own meaning.

Once the tone settles after the first few minutes, each scene is charged with hair-trigger suspense, as Zulawski promises us that nothing and no-one will head in the direction we expect. What’s being said eventually seems less important than how it’s being said, at what volume, to whom (if anyone), and who is speaking (often everyone). It’s a cinematic symphony which jackknifes on a dime from the insane to the introspective. Witold clamours to understand what’s happening, but his questions just lead to more questions. He realises that he must focus on what’s important, and chalk up the torrent of enigmas as eccentric background noise.

Not by any means for the faint of heart, Cosmos is nonetheless a juddering cloudburst of pure visual and aural energy, a rare instance of deep intellectual enquiry buoyed by unexpected jolts of pulsing emotion. Everyone involved understands that they don’t need to understand – it makes Zulawski’s precise orchestration of the cracked action appear all the more remarkable. A swansong of scary, screwball eminence.

Published 17 Aug 2016

Tags: Andrzej Zulawski

Anticipation.

Zulawski seems to have only recently received the critical dues he deserves.

Enjoyment.

What the hell just happened?!

In Retrospect.

Re-watching this one over and over will be a pleasure, not a chore.

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