Polish Cinema: The Yellow Scarf (Janusz Gajos, 2000, Poland)

The Yellow Scarf is a 2000 TV movie directed as part of a series of Christmas-themed films for Poland's public broadcaster TVP. The film was written by noted Polish author and journalist Jerzy Pilch, who recently passed away due to Parkinson's in 2020. Director Janusz Morgenstern had an extensive career beginning in the 1950s with the Polish New Wave, and perhaps most notably in the 1960s with his film Jowita (1967).  

The film stars Janusz Gajos in the leading role. He is the President of the company, but his character is never given a name. This is the same for all characters in the film, who are never referred to by name. Set over three days, the film opens on the day before Christmas Eve (Wigilia). We quickly learn, as he runs out of a board meeting to grab a flask from his desk, that Gajos is struggling with alcoholism. Throughout the film, we will see if he can win this battle. The Yellow Scarf refers to a gift given to him by his mostly estranged son early on in the film, which serves as a reminder for him to abandon his addiction and redeem himself.

While The Yellow Scarf brings nothing new to the subject of alcoholism that hasn't been explored in previous films, the film is most notable for its performance. Gajos gives a tour de force that exceeds the limitations of the TV format. Alongside him are several other powerhouse performers of Polish cinema, including Krystyna Janda as his girlfriend. Despite its dark subject matter, The Yellow Scarf is comic at times, and several clips from the film have become memes on YouTube and the Polish internet. The Yellow Scarf is a solid Polish Christmas movie that is worth a watch for fans of Polish cinema.



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