NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN – Review by Marietta Steinhart (Guest Post)

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A stranger walks into a Polish town.

There is a spellbinding sense of fairy tale realism to Małgorzata Szumowska’s latest, her first co-directed film with long-time cinematographer Michał Englert. Never Gonna Snow Again is loaded with social commentary – it’s wicked and quietly wonderful.

With nothing but a fold-up table under his arm, a mysterious Ukrainian masseur walks into an anonymous gated Polish community, not unlike American Suburbia in Tim Burton’s gothic fairy tale Edward Scissorhands (1990), a surreal punch at capitalism in the Reagan Era. The bourgeoisie seemingly has it all, yet their lives are empty and grotesque.

And while Johnny Depp’s Edward creates beautiful garden sculptures and unusual haircuts for the deeply bored with his scissor hands, the discreet hero of Małgorzata Szumowska’s new fable, too, does magical things with his hands and brings snow as a gift to unfortunate souls, who are out of touch with the world and themselves.

A lonely housewife (Maja Ostaszewska), who starts jugging white wine in the AM; a father, who suffers from cancer (Łukasz Simlat); a kid from across the street, who sells him MDMA; and a widow (Agata Kulesza), whose dead husband is fertilizing the fir tree outside her house (the film has a wicked sense of humor). It’s an exquisite exercise in modern miserabilism.

Enter Zhenia (the wonderful Alec Utgoff, Stranger Things), who spends his days going from one tedious Stepford-like mansion to another, patiently listening to bourgeois ailments, and providing a brief moment of relief to these residents, who see in Zhenia the Second Coming of Jesus or something – he does wear a golden cross around his neck. “I’ve heard you have great abilities”, an ex-military man says. And it’s true. It’s not clear why, but Zhenia seems to have a mystic touch of some sort, that transports his clients in a state of blissful hypnosis and into a green Grimm-like forest, not unlike the one Zhenia stepped out of at the beginning of this film.

Małgorzata Szumowska, one of Poland’s most prolific directors, and her longtime cinematographer Michał Englert, who is also a director and writer on this project, blur dreamlike fantasies with Zhenia’s childhood near Chernobyl that we see in strange golden flashbacks. His mother died after the nuclear tragedy and 7-year-old Zhenia mistook the radioactive dust for snow, which he believed to have extraordinary powers. Who Zhenia really is, is anyone’s guess. An angel? An alien? An atomic accident? “I know, who he is”, says a girl, “he’s a superhero!” Is he though? Either way, he remains a foreigner. Continue reading on THE FEMALE GAZE.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).