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Film Data
Never Gonna Snow Again   2020
Śniegu już nigdy nie Będzie / The Masseur
Director:  Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert
Producer:
  Agnieszka Wasiak, Mariusz Włodarski, Viola Fügen, Michael Weber, Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert
Art Director:
  Jagna Janicka
Editor:
  Jaroslaw Kamiński and Agata Cierniak
Screenplay:
  Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert
Director of Photography:
  Michał Englert
slideshow
Cast:
spacer1 Alec Utgoff
spacer1 Maja Ostaszewska
spacer1 Agata Kulesza
spacer1 Weronika Rosati
spacer1 Łukasz Simlat
spacer1 Katarzyna Figura
spacer1 Andrzej Chyra
spacer1 Krzysztof Czeczot
spacer1 Maciej Drosio
spacer1 Jerzy Nasierowski
spacer1 Olaf Marchwicki
spacer1 Blanca Burzynska
spacer1 Alec Utgoff spacer1 Maja Ostaszewska spacer1 Agata Kulesza
spacer1 Weronika Rosati spacer1 Łukasz Simlat spacer1 Katarzyna Figura
spacer1 Andrzej Chyra spacer1 Krzysztof Czeczot spacer1 Maciej Drosio
spacer1 Jerzy Nasierowski spacer1 Olaf Marchwicki spacer1 Blanca Burzynska
spacer1 Alec Utgoff spacer1 Maja Ostaszewska
spacer1 Agata Kulesza spacer1 Weronika Rosati
spacer1 Łukasz Simlat spacer1 Katarzyna Figura
spacer1 Andrzej Chyra spacer1 Krzysztof Czeczot
spacer1 Maciej Drosio spacer1 Jerzy Nasierowski
spacer1 Olaf Marchwicki spacer1 Blanca Burzynska

Synopsis:

Opening with the familiar but slightly menacing tones of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite, Waltz 2, a 1938 piece of late modern classical music you probably do actually know even if you think you don’t, having being used in films as varied as Tell Me Something (1999) and Bad Santa (’03), as well as TV’s House Of Cards (’13) and Mr. Robot (’15), and also being used as the closing theme for Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (’99), Never Gonna Snow Again, the first directorial collaboration between the remarkable Malgazorta Szumowska (Mug / The Other Lamb) and Michał Englert, her regular DoP, is a quite fascinating piece of comedy / drama which is very difficult to categorise, eventually appearing to be a rather captivating fairy tale, set in a gated upmarket housing community on the edge of a Polish city, where the houses are impressive, and obviously expensive, but soulless, and one of the few status symbols to get one up on the neighbours is that some have two garages instead of one.

It is in this hermetic self-isolating compound that recent arrival Ukrainian masseur Zhenia (Ukranian-born British actor Alec Utgoff - Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit / TV’s Stranger Things) visits his clients, carrying his own collapsable massage bed, seeing them in varying states of disarray, his visit to the harassed, increasingly drink-dependent Maria (Maja Ostaszewska - Katyn / In The Name Of), amid the debris of a child’s birthday party, and also having to put up with the particular child involved (the scene-stealing Blanca Burzynska), shows both his soothing methods, aided by his calming, melodious voice, as well as his strangely endearing ways of preserving his client’s modesty.

But of course all of them have their own private fears and secrets, Maria being concerned about getting older and losing her looks; widow Ewa worrying about the trees outside her property, for a very unexpected reason, and, justifiably, about her son, while for all the terminally-ill Marek’s optimism and almost oppressive upbeat nature, he also rationalises that, whatever happens, he’s facing a losing battle. Zhenia is their sounding board and, one realises, whatever else they want to project on him, he being the only thing linking these comfortable, well protected but ultimately lonely people together, and while a lot of the pic is very funny, culminating in a Christmas show by the École Française (another swipe at the resident’s pretensions) which seems surprisingly raunchy since it is being performed by a school, even a French one, but Szumowska and Englert’s script never goes for the easy or cheap laugh. Indeed there are a few genuinely touching moments, such as during the appointment with the ex-military man, which seems tense and slightly threatening as the camera prowls along framed pictures of the man with his heavily armed brothers-in-arms, until one simple detail changes everything the viewer has already assumed.

The scenes of Zhenia in his own very modest flat in a tower block are a pertinent counterpoint to the obvious wealth and comfort of his clients, and the filmmakers have fun with the uniformity of the estate, undoubtedly impressive but also cold and regimented, each house seeming to have a doorbell which gets more and more pretentious and nerve-grating as it mangles another piece of classical music, and the dog owner reassuring worried passers-by ‘They’re just saying hello’ as her trio on leashes snarl and lunge. But there are some intriguing, odd asides which Szumowska and Englert never expand upon, including a scene which Zhenia seems to show he has the power of telekinesis, as well as short and oddly lyrical flashbacks to his childhood in Pripyat, a town just 3km from the more famous Chernobyl, with flakes falling like lethal snow, and a beautifully-shot vignette of his visit to an elegant, moodily-lit penthouse, seemingly for a meeting with someone from his past, is brief and never explained, one of the few dangling threads which are eventually left dangling, but the script deliberately leaves much of Zhenia unexplained, such as, in the opening, smart vignette in the immigration office, when he answers ‘All of them’ when questioned as to what languages he speaks, and it seems that may indeed be the case.

The directors have a strong cast who have appeared in both domestic and international productions, led by Agata Kulesza, seen in the multi-award winners Ida and Cold War as Ewa; Weronika Rosati, a Polish actress who has also appeared in US films including The Iceman and Bullet To The Head as Vicki, Łukasz Simlat (Warsaw By Night / Corpus Christi) and Andrzej Chyra (United States Of Love / Lullaby Killer).

World premiering at the 2020 Venice International Film Festival, vying for the Golden Lion, before going on to Telluride in the US, Bergen in Norway, and the London FF, the pic was also selected to be Poland’s entry in the Foreign Language category for the 2021 Oscars, which is justifiable recognition for such a fascinating and bittersweetly enchanting piece of work, and an indicator of just why the wonderful Szumowska is such an important and essential current filmmaker.

Review:

Opening with the familiar but slightly menacing tones of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite, Waltz 2, a 1938 piece of late modern classical music you probably do actually know even if you think you don’t, having being used in films as varied as Tell Me Something (1999) and Bad Santa (’03), as well as TV’s House Of Cards (’13) and Mr. Robot (’15), and also being used as the closing theme for Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (’99), Never Gonna Snow Again, the first directorial collaboration between the remarkable Malgazorta Szumowska (Mug / The Other Lamb) and Michał Englert, her regular DoP, is a quite fascinating piece of comedy / drama which is very difficult to categorise, eventually appearing to be a rather captivating fairy tale, set in a gated upmarket housing community on the edge of a Polish city, where the houses are impressive, and obviously expensive, but soulless, and one of the few status symbols to get one up on the neighbours is that some have two garages instead of one.

It is in this hermetic self-isolating compound that recent arrival Ukrainian masseur Zhenia (Ukranian-born British actor Alec Utgoff - Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit / TV’s Stranger Things) visits his clients, carrying his own collapsable massage bed, seeing them in varying states of disarray, his visit to the harassed, increasingly drink-dependent Maria (Maja Ostaszewska - Katyn / In The Name Of), amid the debris of a child’s birthday party, and also having to put up with the particular child involved (the scene-stealing Blanca Burzynska), shows both his soothing methods, aided by his calming, melodious voice, as well as his strangely endearing ways of preserving his client’s modesty.

But of course all of them have their own private fears and secrets, Maria being concerned about getting older and losing her looks; widow Ewa worrying about the trees outside her property, for a very unexpected reason, and, justifiably, about her son, while for all the terminally-ill Marek’s optimism and almost oppressive upbeat nature, he also rationalises that, whatever happens, he’s facing a losing battle. Zhenia is their sounding board and, one realises, whatever else they want to project on him, he being the only thing linking these comfortable, well protected but ultimately lonely people together, and while a lot of the pic is very funny, culminating in a Christmas show by the École Française (another swipe at the resident’s pretensions) which seems surprisingly raunchy since it is being performed by a school, even a French one, but Szumowska and Englert’s script never goes for the easy or cheap laugh. Indeed there are a few genuinely touching moments, such as during the appointment with the ex-military man, which seems tense and slightly threatening as the camera prowls along framed pictures of the man with his heavily armed brothers-in-arms, until one simple detail changes everything the viewer has already assumed.

The scenes of Zhenia in his own very modest flat in a tower block are a pertinent counterpoint to the obvious wealth and comfort of his clients, and the filmmakers have fun with the uniformity of the estate, undoubtedly impressive but also cold and regimented, each house seeming to have a doorbell which gets more and more pretentious and nerve-grating as it mangles another piece of classical music, and the dog owner reassuring worried passers-by ‘They’re just saying hello’ as her trio on leashes snarl and lunge. But there are some intriguing, odd asides which Szumowska and Englert never expand upon, including a scene which Zhenia seems to show he has the power of telekinesis, as well as short and oddly lyrical flashbacks to his childhood in Pripyat, a town just 3km from the more famous Chernobyl, with flakes falling like lethal snow, and a beautifully-shot vignette of his visit to an elegant, moodily-lit penthouse, seemingly for a meeting with someone from his past, is brief and never explained, one of the few dangling threads which are eventually left dangling, but the script deliberately leaves much of Zhenia unexplained, such as, in the opening, smart vignette in the immigration office, when he answers ‘All of them’ when questioned as to what languages he speaks, and it seems that may indeed be the case.

The directors have a strong cast who have appeared in both domestic and international productions, led by Agata Kulesza, seen in the multi-award winners Ida and Cold War as Ewa; Weronika Rosati, a Polish actress who has also appeared in US films including The Iceman and Bullet To The Head as Vicki, Łukasz Simlat (Warsaw By Night / Corpus Christi) and Andrzej Chyra (United States Of Love / Lullaby Killer).

World premiering at the 2020 Venice International Film Festival, vying for the Golden Lion, before going on to Telluride in the US, Bergen in Norway, and the London FF, the pic was also selected to be Poland’s entry in the Foreign Language category for the 2021 Oscars, which is justifiable recognition for such a fascinating and bittersweetly enchanting piece of work, and an indicator of just why the wonderful Szumowska is such an important and essential current filmmaker.

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