The Western has undergone some peculiar transformations over the years, most notably its adoption by a number of European film industries—Italy’s most famously, East Germany’s most bizarrely—seeking to put their own imprimatur upon it. Seemingly not content to let Poland miss out on the party, debut writer/director/producer Piotr Uklanski has taken his stab at the game with Summer Love, a Kielbasa Western that takes its cues more from the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone than anything uniquely American. Shot in English, it’s an odd, disjointed, but curiously appealing effort that could attain cult status if only for the fact that it’s so incredibly strange. That’s unlikely to do much for the careers of anyone involved, but it could earn the film a spot on the midnight-movie circuit for some time to come.
Czech actor Karel Roden stars as “The Stranger,” a Clint Eastwood-inspired lonely hero who comes across the corpse of an outlaw (Val Kilmer, in an obvious visual joke) for which he decides he’s going to collect a bounty. But the denizens of the nearby town—the boozy sheriff (Boguslaw Linda), in particular—are a sadistic, sociopathic lot who have less interest in paying out a bounty than toying with the fresh meat. Even stranger and more disturbing, they all sound like Bela Lugosi.
This is roughly the kind of film Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro might have made in their earlier years if they had been A) interested in Westerns and B) on drugs. That’s not to say that Uklanski has no chops—he clearly knows what he wants and knows how to deliver it. The only question is whether he has delivered anything of significant entertainment value to a mass audience. With the genre somewhat resurgent in the U.S., thanks to the Aussie-made
and such high-profile studios films as
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
3:10 to Yuma, audiences are clearly accepting of a certain brand of western revisionism. But
is too flat-out weird to fully anticipate just where and by whom it will be embraced. Clearly there’s an audience for this kind of fare, and with luck and some savvy marketing, the film and its audience will find each other. Being as this is the first of its kind, that’s not likely to happen immediately
but that’s why there’s DVD.
Distributor: Cinema Epoch
Cast: Karel Roden, Boguslaw Linda, Val Kilmer, Katarzayna Figura and Romuald Anderzej Klos
Director/Screenwriter: Piotr Uklanski
Producers: Piotr Uklanski and Hamish Skeggs
Running time: 95 min.
Release date: February 8