Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1958: Zbigniew Cybulski in Ashes and Diamonds

Zbigniew Cybulski did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying Maciek in Ashes and Diamonds.

Ashes and Diamonds is an effective film about members of the Polish Home Army who target a Polish communist leader right at the very end of the second World War.

Zbigniew Cybulski plays one of the young soldiers who we see in the opening of the film as they gun down a couple men in car who they assume to be their target. Cybulski in this early scene plays Maciek as simply an energetic young solider who gets a thrill and almost some glee out of shooting the men and following the orders of his superior. The men quickly retreat from the scene leaving others to discover that the men were not the communists. The rest of the film depicts as Maciek and his superior wait as they are slowly given the chance once again to make an attempt on the life of the communist. In the mean time though Maciek is allowed some time to think of things over and is allowed to mind things other than what his current mission is.

Cybulski became known as the Polish James Dean after this film because of the way in which he plays Maciek, that unfortunately also became prophetic since Cybulski also ended up dying young in an accident. Cybulski only lightly takes on the mannerisms of Dean, and is nothing like Martin Sheen's more encompassing Dean influenced work in Badlands. No Cybulski only even really shows them when Maciek is interacting with his romantic interest in the film Krystyna who is the barmaid at the hotel in which they stay at until it is time to make their move again. The direction Andrzej Wajda apparently gave Cybulski was to play the part as if his character had watched Dean's films despite that technically being impossible. The whole idea might sound pretty problematic all together, but the way Cybulski brings Dean's mannerisms into his performance actually does work.

Cybulski only does his Dean mannerisms when Maciek is trying to act cool toward Krystyna, and basically it is a bit of a put on as he actively is trying to be cool. Cybulski actually plays it entirely naturally even in its technically artificiality, as it comes off as something someone would actually do when they emulate the coolness of a movie character to try to be cool himself. Whenever Cybulski's does use the mannerisms it is only at times that make sense and even then he's pretty subtle about the whole. Did Cybulski need to bring these mannerisms into his performance? Not necessarily, but I suppose they add a little more to Maciek as a character anyway. Maciek is not always trying to be all that cool with the lady though, and in these moments is where Cybulski's creates the arc that Maciek goes through during the course of the film.

Maciek's relationship with Krystyna causes changes in him as Maciek basically sees that there is more to life than his current mission. Cybulski in his early scenes was cool but seemed defined by his actions, as he spends time with Krystyna Cybulski shows Maciek as a man who starts to gain substance. He rather effectively eases back on the cool, to begin to show some genuine growth in the man as Maciek sees there is more to life. Cybulski eases very nicely into Maciek's changes as he portrays it as more of a realization than a revelation. Later on when Maciek kills again Cybulski earns the change in Maciek. In the new killing Maciek loses that extreme enthusiasm that was so pronounced the first time, and is rather powerful as he shows that the new experiences in Maciek has made it so his enthusiasm of the kill simply is impossible now.

The only problem with this performance is that it is limited due to the nature of the film. This is absolutely Andrzej Wajda's film as the film is not simply about Maciek's journey or the assassination. Andrzej Wajda takes a considerable time examining the whole atmosphere of the setting and even fairly minor characters are their due. Cybulski I would say is only barely lead as the film takes its time with all the other characters, making it so Maciek's transformation is one facet of the larger canvas of the film. Zbigniew Cybulski deserves credit for giving a compelling performance with what he does have and makes Maciek's story believable. Cybulski's performance is overshadowed by the film as a whole, but it is definitely a good performance that adds to the strength of the film.

19 comments:

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Prediction change!

1. Stewart
2. Mifune
3. Guinness
4. Cybulski
5. Lee

Mark said...

Just for fun, Louis, since I know you've seen both these movies, ratings and thoughts on Ernie Reyes Jr, Rob Schneider, and Leslie Nielsen in Surf Ninjas, and Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin in Biodome

JackiBoyz said...

1. Stewart
2. Guinness
3. Mifune
4. Lee
5. Cybulski

luke higham said...

1. Stewart
2. Mifune
3. Guinness
4. Lee
5. Cybulski

Kevin said...

1. Stewart
2. Mifune
3. Guinness
4. Cybulski
5. Lee

Also Louis, what are your ratings and thoughts on Pitt, Liotta, McNairy, Jenkins and Gandolfini in Killing Them Softly?

Michael Patison said...

1. Stewart
2. Mifune
3. Guinness
4. Lee
5. Cybulski

Anonymous said...

Thoughts/ratings on:

Sidney Poitier in A Patch of Blue

Takeshi Kaneshiro in Chungking Express

Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction

Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws

Woody Strode in Once Upon a Time in America (just finished watching this and it's amazing how a small cameo of his left such a lasting impression on me till the end. Great film)

Willem Dafoe in To Live and Die in LA

Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun

Michael McCarthy said...

Huh, I figured he'd get a 4 but for different reasons.
i thought he was great.

Michael Patison said...

Louis, can you do 1957 and 1965 Supporting the next time you visit those decades? I know that won't be for a while as you're currently doing and have just finished a year from them, but it's driving me kinda crazy that they're only half-done.

You also ranked either your top 5 or your top 10 (I can't remember which) child/young adult performances. If I remember correctly Tye Sheridan in Mud and Justin Henry were your two best, which makes me think it was probably male-only as Patty Duke would probably be #1 otherwise. Where would Martin Stephens factor into the list? You don't have to relist it unless you want to.

luke higham said...

Tom Holland's performance in The Impossible, was not on the list either, from what I could remember.

Michael McCarthy said...

Kinda with Michael on the half-finished years haha (and let's not forget 1937), I know it's an irrational feeling but what're you gonna do.

Michael Patison said...

I always forget 1 year. First it was 1965. This time it's 1937.

mcofra7 said...

1.Stewart
2. Guinness
3. Mifune
4. Lee
5. Cybulski

RatedRStar said...

=D I agree with the Michaels lol, its feels really odd having half a year done Louis =D, especially since 1965 in particular already has 5 nominees that are obvious lol =D and you know which 5 I mean lol.

RatedRStar said...

1965 alternate supporting actually has a really strong line up full of at least 4 five star performances in my opinion =D so maybe Louis you are saving it, since lets face it Louis since at least 4 of the nominees are on ur 65 page, and a certain actor who is in 1958 alternate lol will most likely be on the list =D.

Louis Morgan said...

Mark:

Ernie Reyes - (What can one really say about a performance that utters the immortal line "Gumbay as in Pokay's friend". I don't think there's much more than I can add than that)

Rob Schneider - (Easily his greatest performance, and I say that in all seriousness. But come on "Money can't buy Knives" is a truly classic monologue)

Nielsen - (I guess I'll address him more seriously than the rest who I refuse to look past the nostalgic lens. But hey what's not to like about Nielsen playing a samurai warrior? Sure it does not make a lot of sense, but come on his answering machine moments are classic)

Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin in Biodome - 1(What can one say about these performances, other than it perhaps could cause one's brain to melt when forced to endure long term exposure)

Kevin:

Pitt - 4(Very solid in just bringing out the needed earthy cynicism for the character, and acted well as the man who takes his job of killing in as professional of a way as possible)

McNairy - 4(A very effective performance as he starts out as the wannabe big criminal who acts tough, and is very moving in creating a sympathetic portrayal of a man who quickly sees that he is in way over his head)

Liotta - 4(Liotta as usual is the perfect fit for the gangster type, but he's great here at being a far less tough type. He's a great sad sack, and contributes to making his beating scene particularly brutal)

Jenkins - 4(Jenkins is pretty great at being basically a mob accountant, and is quite humorous by being just so overly by the books when it comes to matters of life and death)

Gandolfini - 2.5(Unfortunately the weak leak of the cast for me. I don't think he is bad by any measure, but his performance in no way made it so his whole character did not feel like a waste of time that just basically caused the film to come to a halt)

Anonymous

Poitier - 4.5(Very much in the Poitier mold, but a very good example of it. He has some great charm in the role, along with a very believable chemistry with Mary Harman, but as well is very good in reflecting the greater concerns of his character.

Kaneshiro - 4.5(I found his performance to be extremely endearing and found that he just was a fun energetic presence for his half of the film)

Walken - 4(Walken's a great one scene wonder as he does such a terrific job of giving the weight needed for the watch story, while giving the appropriate odd balance when the story takes his rather unorthodox turn)

Dreyfuss - 4.5(As with Shaw and Scheider he vividly realizes his character. He uses his usual mannerisms particularly well here in creating a man who is quickly frustrated when he his expertise falls on deaf ears. He never overdoes them, and honestly portrays the reactions of a man in his situation as well. Most importantly though he creates a fantastic dynamic with Shaw and Scheider)

Strode - 3.5(Technically does barely anything but still makes a great impression. Strode's stare exudes so much menace, and his reaction to Bronson's line about the horses is absolutely perfect)

Dafoe - 4(Dafoe gives an interesting performance as he plays the counterfeiter almost like a 80's hollow businessman, as brings such a sleaze and general smugness as the villain)

Christian Bale - 4(Bale gives a solid performance in giving just an honest portrayal of a boy during wartime, and rather effectively shows the loss of his innocence in a genuine fashion)

Michael Patison:

I definitely will try to get to those years soon enough.

As for the child actor ranking that was far from definitive since I just did it off the top of my head.

Michael McCarthy said...

What were your ratings and thoughts on Kirk Douglas in Detective Story, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Spartacus, and Seven Days in May?

John Smith said...

Louis,If you have seen Scenes From A Marriage could you tell me your toughts on the cast?

Louis Morgan said...

Michael:

Detective Story - 4.5(Douglas is always great at the passionate righteous man, but here rather effectively subverts that by showing it form into almost a blinding passion that slowly becomes an insanity)

20,000 Leagues Under Sea - 4(Douglas work well as the hero here, and nicely brings some energy that is a great balance to Mason's darker performance. He also is just very entertaining and has some create comedic chemistry with Peter Lorre)

Spartacus - 4(In a film of show offs Douglas effective underplays his part but brings the right command and conviction to be a convincing leader that others would give up their lives for. His reaction in the "I'm Spartacus!" scene is perfect)

Seven Days in May - 4(A particularly thankless role as the man caught between the strong personalities of the characters played by March and Lancaster. He is also really caught between their performances as he has to really stay very quiet, but in that Douglas is still very good in creating the crisis of conscious in his character and his confrontation scene with Lancaster is great)

John Smith: I haven't watched it.