Polish Cinema: Man - Woman Wanted (Stanislaw Bareja, 1973, Poland)

Man - Woman Wanted is a cult comedy by the legendary Polish director Stanislaw Bareja. Bareja is by far the Polish auteur who is the most popular in his native Poland, but the least known outside. His films were largely inaccessible to non-Polish audiences before the Internet age, and even now it is rare to find an official release. Perhaps this is because they are comedies - some harder to translate than others. The film stars Wojciech Pokora as an art historian - StanisÅ‚aw Maria Rochowicz. When a painting goes missing from his museum, he is accused of stealing it. Rochowicz decides with his wife Kasia to go into hiding - as a woman.

Inspired by Bareja's wife's experience working as an art historian at the National Museum, as well as the couples' experience hiring women to watch their children, Man - Woman Wanted becomes a satire on gender and class in the PRL. Notably, it is never doubted throughout the film that Rochowicz is the woman he pretends to be - in fact, he is even lusted after by some of his male bosses. Rochowicz quickly finds that his job as a woman helper is far more lucrative than his job as an art historian, and his wife ultimately begs him to keep this job.

Stylistically, though the film is light and breezy - with a great score by Jerzy Matuszkiewicz - it illustrates perhaps more than any other film the Polish style of absurdism. Whether this absurdism itself was intended to ridicule life under communism is unclear to this viewer, although the film resonated with Polish audiences - it was watched by 2 million people upon its release in 1973. The film holds no high opinion of authority figures, something that we can see in the protagonist's relationship to his job.



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