Michal Oleszczyk

Michal Oleszczyk

Film critic and scholar
Voted in the critics poll

Voted for:

Atalante, L' 1934 Jean Vigo
City Lights 1931 Charles Chaplin
Long Day Closes, The 1992 Terence Davies
Man with a Movie Camera 1929 Dziga Vertov
Only Angels Have Wings 1939 Howard Hawks
Partie de campagne 1936 Jean Renoir
Rear Window 1954 Alfred Hitchcock
Thin Red Line, The 1998 Terrence Malick
Topsy-Turvy 1999 Mike Leigh
WR: Mysteries of the Organism 1971 Dusan Makavejev


Rear Window is a superbly crafted allegory of watching and following that touches upon our primal voyeuristic drives. By the end of the screening, the film seems to be all but looking back at us with an amused little smirk. Hitchcock defines the movies; Rear Window defines Hitchcock. Cinema is both a retreat and a prison in Davies’ The Long Day Closes, a memoir of childhood bliss slowly turning into scary gay desire that the protagonist doesn’t know how to handle. A love song that is also a dirge, it’s a profoundly sad work of immense beauty. Malick’s Whitman-by-way-of-Emerson poem of beauty intertwined with death, The Thin Red Line is as boundless as it is instantly accessible (not to mention totally immersive). Edited in accordance with the world’s hidden heartbeat that Malick seems completely attuned to, it never fails to intoxicate me, no matter how often I see it. No one merged emotional mush with slapstick brilliance in quite the same way at Chaplin in City Lights – you can be angry at the movie for tugging at your heartstrings, but you stand no chance of resisting its pull. WR: Mysteries of the Organism is the only movie that managed to accommodate and satirise all the Cold War chasms at once, and do so in a happy-collage way that’s as ingenious as it is brilliant. “Unfinished” only in the most crude of senses, A Day in the Country is a work that overflows with emotion, to the point of drugging the viewer into an uncontrolled reverie. A masterpiece of sensual seduction that feels both like a breeze and like a barely suppressed sob of sympathy for all human dreams and desires. L’Atalante is cinema as a diaphanous waft of half-dreamed desire; the most beautiful erotic dream ever put on film. In some YouTube visual dictionary of tomorrow, a full video of Man with a Movie Camera may as well serve as the most comprehensive definition we have yet of ‘modernity’ itself. Unyielding in its reproach of sentimentality, Only Angels Have Wings is a work of true feeling and deep compassion that asks for nothing and gives you everything. The most Dickensian movie ever made, Topsy-Turvy is as rich as the finest novel and accommodates everything from gaiety to sadness to grief to song.