International film co-productions are commonplace. We're accustomed to Anglo-French, Italian-Israeli, Dutch-American, even Chinese-Vietnamese collaborations. But the Polish-Spanish connection is a new one on me, and on the screen.
Come to find out in "Lasting," there's a fair number of fair-skinned Poles who work summer jobs in the fields of Spain. Two of the fairest -- Michal and Karina -- meet and fall in love there.
Starring: Jakub Gierszal, Magdalena Berus.
Rating: R in nature for nudity, sexuality and violence.
We find them at the outset, leaping together from a high bridge and plunging deep into the water, hundreds of feet below. They emerge shrieking with exhilaration and then frantically make love. Thenceforth -- by day in the fields, by night under the stars, by anywhere -- they can't keep their hands (or the camera) off each other.
Michal (Jakub Gierszal) has two other fixations in addition to Karina (Magdalena Berus): his motorbike and scuba diving. Indulging in both one day, Michal and his carefree pastoral existence are shattered by a bully and a brutal crime. He can't tell Karina about it. Our beautiful lover boy -- never troubled or in trouble before -- is suddenly freaked out and looks awful, with dark circles growing under his eyes.
They return to school in Poland. He finally confesses. She gets drunk/stoned, throws up and rides the white bus -- then a municipal one back to campus. She gets no answers from her nice taxi-driver dad or her glib psychology professors. Her dark circles are getting much worse than his. But he's concerned only with his own secret, his own angst: After Crime, must there be Punishment? More important, will she come to his volleyball game?
I don't know, but I'd really like to get their sunscreen formula. Back in Spain, these two worked all day in the hot sun with no trace of a tan, let alone a burn.
That issue pales (forgive me) by comparison with the elliptical gaps in writer-director Jacek Borcuch's storytelling -- the spaces between what happens and what we know. He gives us the reactions before the actions. This is intentional, designed to be suspenseful: We're in suspense, all right ... and will be kept there.
On the other hand, he provides some fine touches: the old Grandpa who can't drink, the rough and funny table banter in Spain, the buzzing FLIES that intrude on everything and everybody, even during sex! We can empathize with his protagonists in the disintegration of their naively ordered world -- shades of "Breathless" and a few dozen other New Wave pix based on the always-romantic idea of wild young runaway lovers on the lam from something -- it doesn't much matter what.
Credit the sexy, charismatic Mr. Gierszal and his piercing blue eyes for most of that empathy. He was the star of an amazing film called "The Suicide Room" -- the best foreign film of 2011 -- in which he brilliantly played a spoiled brat whose permissive parents are too busy to notice his suicidal disconnect on the Internet. Ms. Berus, a well-known Euro fashion model, is also good as Karina.
But "Lasting," part of the Three Rivers Film Festival, is hindered by its heavy-handed plot devices and its not-so-nouvelle vague resolution of same. Both story threads -- discovery of the crime, survival of the lovers' relationship -- are left dangling by an inscrutably melodramatic ending.
Well, hey ... it's Polish, not Hollywood, cinema: You'll either be pleased or annoyed -- willing or unwilling -- to fill in the blanks yourself.
In Spanish and Polish with English subtitles. Co-sponsored by the Polish Cultural Council.