Jerzy Skolimowski Axel Madsen - Essay

Axel Madsen

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Jerzy Skolimowski's "Le Départ" is the best the "new cinema" has come up with thus far…. It is the kind of film that makes one forget tedious hours of watching tedious miles of young filmmakers' attempts; the kind of film that in one blow justifies it all….

"Le Départ" is modern cinema—digested and carried forward. Skolimowski accomplishes the feat of playing on what is evident and what is arbitrary in cinema, moving his audience forward with shots that begin as one thing and reveal quite another, with attitudes and lines of dialogue that question themselves, the film, and us…. Skolimowski is modern in the most post-McLuhan sense of modernity—everything can be true. Certainties and conditioned reflexes turn into question marks and puns, our points of reference are ridiculed…. The shocks and visual inventions are never gratuitous, really, and Skolimowski even brings home his message—that car hunger is often a youth's sublimation for sexual repressions—without crude Freudianisms. At the end, when we expect the traditional hotel room bedscene, Skolimowski surprises us a last time with a tender, "white" ending that is totally in character….

"Le Départ" is totally incredible from beginning to end, but Skolimowski's amazing knowledge of what cinematic cement is made of hooks us from credit crawl to fadeout in a highwire act the likes of which we haven't seen in years. This continuity of the improbable is filmmaking at its newest. Skolimowski is a man to behold.

Axel Madsen, "Reviews: 'Le Départ' ('The Start')," in Cinema (© Spectator International, Inc.), Vol. 3, No. 6, Winter, 1967, p. 49.