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Publication Date
May 2017
Page Count
160 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9


The Cinema of Wojciech Has
Annette Insdorf

In this first study in English of a master of Polish cinema, Annette Insdorf explores Has’s thirteen feature films with the same deep insight of her groundbreaking book on Krzysztof Kieslowski, Double Lives, Second Chances (Northwestern, 2013).
Wojciech Has’s films are still less known outside of his native Poland than those of his countrymen Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi, and Krzysztof Kieslowski. Yet thanks to his singular vision, many critics rank Has among the masters of world cinema. Some of his movies have developed a cult following, notably The Saragossa Manuscript, the favorite film of the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, which has been praised by directors Luis Buñuel, Francis Ford Coppola, and Roman Polanski.
Has’s films reveal the inner lives of his characters, which he portrays by giving free rein to his own wildly creative imagination. In addition toThe Saragossa Manuscript, his diverse and innovative filmography includes The Hourglass Sanatorium, a vividly surreal depiction of Hassidic life in Poland between the world wars; The Noose, a stark poetic drama about a lucid alcoholic who knows he will not be able to kick the habit; and How to Be Loved, in which an actress remembers her wartime past.
Has made disparate but formally striking movies infused with European strains of existentialism and the avant-garde. With many of his films being restored and rereleased, new generations of film lovers are discovering his artistic genius. Intimations: The Cinema of Wojciech Has is the definitive guide in English to his work.
About the Author

ANNETTE INSDORF is a professor of film in Columbia University’s School of the Arts, and moderator of the “Reel Pieces” series at Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y. Her books include François Truffaut; Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust; and Philip Kaufman.

"Like most Westerners, I came to Wojciech Has by way of The Saragossa Manuscript, a picture I’ve always loved. It was many years before I was able to catch up with other Has films, for instance, The Hourglass Sanatorium, which came as a revelation. Annette Insdorf’s book provides welcome historical context and insight into the achievement of this singular filmmaker. A critical study of Has is long overdue, and no one but Insdorf could have written it." —Martin Scorsese

"Has is a completely unrecognized genius, probably the most talented Polish director since the war, with his own sensibility and vision."—Pawel Pawlikowski, director of the Oscar-winning film Ida

"Insdorf is an exemplary critic whose clear, compact analyses are equally insightful on narrative, thematic, and audiovisual levels. Almost every page of Intimations reveals something fresh about the 14 features on which Has's reputation chiefly rests. She is especially strong on his fascination with time, with codes and symbols, with the expressive potential of music and color, and with Jewish imagery and culture... Insdorf also casts valuable light on Has's view of storytelling as a protean enterprise capable of generating the near-claustrophobic intimacy of The Noose (1958) and One Room Tenants (1960), on one hand, and the sprawling, labyrinthine puzzles of The Saragossa Manuscript and The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973), on the other." —Quarterly Review of Film and Video 

"...Wojciech Has's singular films are long overdue for reappraisal inside and outside his native land. Annette Insdorf's new book is a slim but informative survey of all 14 of his features, emphasizing their diverse aesthetics and influences with concise prose... Tantalizing... Insdorf provides scholarship for others to build on." —Film Comment 

 ... we can now welcome the publication of a monograph by a scholar whose knowledge of Polish film history is as thorough as it is intimate... Insdorf never relinquishes her sharp attention to detail... an exemplary monograph on a great filmmaker." —Cineaste