Polish Cinema: Teeth Smile (Roman Polanski, 1957, Poland)

A Toothy Smile (Uśmiech zębiczny) is the second short film by Roman Polanski, directed while he was a student at the National Film School in Lodz. In contrast to his first film - Murder - the theme of this film was assigned to him by an instructor. The film opens with a shot of a stairwell. A young man is headed down the stairs. As he descends, he looks offscreen, and something beyond our vision seems to catch his attention. The young man slowly retraces his steps, and we see what appears to be the grate of an open window. 

The young man approaches the window and looks inside. From his view, we see a young woman cleaning herself, naked, in her bathroom. The shot reverses and we see the man's face, framed through the grate of the window. The man gets a view of the woman in full as she washes her hair - we don't see her face. Then the camera comes back to his face, and he flashes the titular toothy smile. A man pops out of the door beside our main character, and he runs off. When the man goes back inside, the tooth-smile man returns to the window. He now sees the man, brushing his teeth, who turns angrily to stare at him. A Toothy Smile is a quite memorable short film, that within two minutes manages to relay one of its director's prime obsessions (voyeurism), as well as relay essentially what amounts to a visual joke in the finale. We see that Polanski was already developing a cinematic language here, and the themes he would explore throughout his career were already set very much in motion by the late 1950s. A Toothy Smile is worth watching for all people interested in Polanski's filmography.



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