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Ashes and Diamonds - Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema

Introduction by Anna Krakus (USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences)

A masterpiece from the golden age of world cinema, Andrzej Wajda’s Ashes and Diamonds is set on the last day of World War II and the first day of peace – and between them, a night that changes everything. The film is largely seen through the eyes of Maciek (Zbigniew Cybulski, the so-called James Dean of Poland, in a career-defining performance), a young resistance soldier who begins the film by botching an assassination attempt. In a few hours dawn will end the Nazi slavery of the country, but also will bring a new communist regime to Poland. And Maciek still hasn’t hit his target: a villainous commissar. This is not the independence the idealistic young man and his brothers in arms have been fighting and dying for. Should Maciek continue his combat when he wants so badly to live a normal, peaceful life?

1958, 104 minutes, black and white, DCP | Written by Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Andrzejewski, based on the novel by Jerzy Andrzejewski; directed by Andrzej Wajda; with Zbigniew Cybulski, Ewa Krzyzewska, Adam Pawlikowski, Waclaw Zastrzezynski, Bogumil Kobiela, Jan Ciecierski, Stanislaw Milski.

Night Train

Night Train - Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema
A scene from NIGHT TRAIN, 1959.

A noirish psychological study and a hazily expressionistic tale of solitude, Night Train brings together two lonesome voyagers on an overnight train journey to the Baltic coast worthy of Hitchcock. Around them, a microcosm of the human experience plays out in the speeding railcars’ shadowy, cramped quarters: a coquette, bored with her older husband, attempts to seduce every available man; a former prisoner of a concentration camp fights his insomnia; and a stowaway (Zbigniew Cybulski) seeks his beloved. Is a runaway murderer in their midst? The local police think as much and when they board at a way station, everything changes. An artistic work of great subtlety that climaxes with a tense manhunt through the misty countryside, Night Train is a breakthrough by writer-director Jerzy Kawalerowicz.

1959, 99 minutes, black and white, DCP | Written by Jerzy Lutowski, Jerzy Kawalerowicz; directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz; with Lucyna Winnicka, Leon Niemczyk, Teresa Szmigielówna, Zbigniew Cybulski, Helena Dabrowska.

Martin Scorsese has curated a selection of landmark Polish films, all newly restored, from some of the country's most accomplished and lauded filmmakers, such as Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Krzysztof Zanussi, Jerzy Kawalerowicz and Wojciech Has. Zanussi will appear in person as the Academy launches the series on May 2 with a screening of two of his films: the acidic college comedy Camouflage and the stirring drama The Constant Factor. The remaining series spans 1957–1987 and encompasses the mind-bending absurdism of The Hourglass Sanatorium, the noir-tinted existentialism of Night Train, the New Wave eccentricities of Innocent Sorcerers, the period elegance of The Promised Land and much more. In partnership with the Cinefamily, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will screen 19 of Scorsese's 21 selections across two venues and over two months.

Organized by Propaganda Foundation, DI Factory, CRF and The Film Foundation, in cooperation with Kino RP, Milestone Films, Tor, Zebra and Kadr, with the support of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland, the Polish Film Institute and the Polish National Audiovisual Institute.

The series runs from May 2 through June 24. For more screenings, please visit our Events page.


Event Information

Friday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Bing Theater
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles

$5 general admission
$3 Academy members, LACMA Film Club members and students with a valid ID.

*These prices include admission to both screenings on May 9.
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