THE BIG ANIMAL (Jerzy Stuhr, Poland, 2000, 5)
I shoulda saw this one coming, the latest example of unfinished-early-screenplay-by-deceased-great-artist-itis (has this genre ever produced a great film — and no, the first 120 minutes of AI: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE is not a film by itself).
Written by Krzysztof Kieslowski, THE BIG ANIMAL is a modestly diverting film about a Polish man, played by Kieslowski-in-life collaborator Stuhr, who adopts an abandoned two-hump camel abandoned by a circus. Camels are not accustomed to Poland though; nor Poles to camels. There’s some amusing bits of official pettifoggery about such matters as whether to classify it as a horse or a cow, since Poland doesn’t have a “camel tax.” But there’s no bite or anger as in the best Eastern European films about this subject — stuff like FIREMAN’S BALL or LARKS ON A STRING.
This film is light and good-natured as a feather, but only about that deep. There’s the predictable town’s rejection of the camel after Stuhr refuses to pay for the animal by commercializing it (a couple of schemes for which raised a chuckle or two). The novelty of the camel eventually wears out, for both the town and, honestly for me as well, though the final wordless sequence of the final fate of the camel is quietly moving. Not bad by any means, but it would have no interest at all today had its screenwriter not gone on to make THE DECALOGUE, THREE COLORS, CAMERA BUFF, etc., etc.
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