Jerzy Skolimowski John Coleman - Essay

John Coleman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

When it arrives—and, by some minor miracle of audiophonics, it does—the throaty clamour indicated by the title of Jerzy Skolimowski's latest excursion into English-speaking cinema is unlike most promises: quite up to expectations, one hell of a howl. Thus giving away the biggest, single effect in The Shout, I have made a choice which clearly reflects on the film as a whole: as a whole, it is a hole. Taken at what remove I know not … from a source of general repute, it comes out as about the craziest cinematic structure in a fair while. Skolimowski—too long absent from our screens—is an expatriate Pole of enormous talent, mostly leaning into the surreal. Whether he has genius is something else and this self-inflating doubt seems to beset even his better movies. One thinks especially of the anglicised side of his career and, accordingly, of Deep End, where he gave us a sly, merry and murky tale of kinds of life blossoming around a public baths in some echoing appearance of an East End, tiled and chlorinated remnant of Victoriana…. It was us rinsed into freshness, as well as a terminal bloodiness.

The Shout lies closer to Altman…. [It] is not only lethal but apparently aphrodisiac: see [Susannah] York's shameless behaviour. Much more amusement, in the indecipherable event, is provided by a very in-and-out context or set of flashesforward…. Flames, and a screaming Francis Bacon-derived yowl (previously salted in), conclude the revel. A quantity of the detail is extremely attractive and special. (pp. 751-52)

John Coleman, "Crying Out Loud," in New Statesman (© 1978 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), Vol. 95, No. 2463, June 2, 1978, pp. 751-52.∗