Never Gonna Snow Again
Directed by Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert
I don’t know about the snow. But one thing is for sure. We will never see another film like Never Gonna Snow Again. This maddeningly cryptic Polish work of ….well…not quite a work of art. But it tries, Laden with enigma and burdened with an overdose of esotericism, this oddball off a film had me thinking about Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Bawarchi.
What if Rajesh Khanna from Hrishida’s film was a masseur instead of a cook? The pleasure provided by both the endeavours is strongly sexual . If the masseur rubs his client into moaning submission, the expert cook creates his own erotic magic by massaging the palate.
I remember going to a veteran actress’ home for dinner where she introduced me to her cook.
“If I ever had to choose between my cook and my husband it would be a hard choice,” she laughed.
Zhenia(Alec Utgoff) is a Ukrainian crossing into Poland with nothing but her skilful fingers and a folding bed as his possession. Most of the sparse narrative goes into the unfolding of the bed and the massages that seem to go on forever. The effect is hypnotic. Not only on those Zhenia massages, but also on the audience.
As we watch Zhenia work his magic, something happens that transcends the screen.We the audience are sucked into a world of bleak hope , a distant unattainable yearning: bored housewives looking for an escape from their drudgery, terminally ill people hoping Zhenia’s magical fingers would rid them of disease, alcoholics, drug addicts, overweight men and under-confident men all surrender to Zhenia’s magical administration.
He is a savior and a guardian angel, a masseur and a messiah. A saint and a seducer. In the confident hands of Soviet actor Alec Utgoff, Zhenai becomes a brimming beacon of hope, a fulcrum of sunshine in a world eclipsed by lost dreams and desperate hopes.
All this is done in a tone so solemn and an atmosphere so grim and joyless that it is a miracle Never Gonna Snow Again remains so light to the touch. It’s almost as if Zhenia’s fingers have worked their magic on the narrative, bathing a potentially farcical and imminently tragic world in heaps of sunshine.
Much credit for the film’s brilliant bleakness goes to the leading man. Alec Utgoff seldom smiles not because he has no reason to. But because he doesn’t want to seem as if he’s belittling his clients .Some of his client are plainly bonkers. Other carry the heavy burden of existence on their creaky shoulders pleading for a massage.Through all of this Alec Utgoff stays a portrait of mysterious stoicism.
At the end of Never Gonna Snow Again I wasn’t sure if I liked the film or not. However there is no denying its fierce originality, its determination to remain on its own trippy trip even if it means letting the audience down. The film was Poland’s entry into last year’s Oscars. But it didn’t get selected. I am not surprised.
It’s hard to like Never Gonna Snow Again. We expect the masseur-hero to seduce these anxious women. Instead he hypnotizes them to divert attention from his own failures.He is no messiah. But then he never said he was.