Recently I’ve had a written conversation about Jack Tati and his most remarkable film, ‘Mr Hulot’s Holiday’. It made me realize how lucky I was when I was a child (or young teenager).
I saw that film first time when I was about 12. In the cinema. Yes, how amazing is that.
I was born and brought up in the most boring area of Poland. Beautiful, but boring as hell. Especially in winter. The nearest city (which is still small) is 100 km away, there are just forests and lakes. It is called Masurian Lake District.
In summer it was completely transformed, there were tourists everywhere, called warmly by locals ‘Potato Beetles’. Because it is only 3 hrs drive from the capitol, a lot of prominent people as well as establishment and artists were buying or building lake houses there, and coming every summer, bank holiday, Christmas, etc. Locals got quite nonchalant about it, which I always found funny. Once there was a famous actor making a fuss in a shop and trying to skip the queue asking with disbelieve: ‘Do you know who I am?’ to which one local person responded: ‘You have to figure out who you are on your own, you can do it while waiting in line, now get back to the queue!’ Whenever someone mentioned Polish writer Hlasko or Czeszko, my mother was recalling on how many occasions she drunk vodka with them. You could say it was almost like our little communistic Hamptons, haha….ha.
But the best part was that the place was always full of filmmakers, writers, film critics, Igor Newerly lived there, John Steinbeck used to visit him. Roman Polanski filmed ‘Knife in the Water’ there. He made it in the 60s but people in the 80s still remembered how the crew liked to party after hours…
Which brings me to the ‘being lucky’ statement. I don’t know if out of boredom or to ‘bring the light of enlightenment to peasants’ , establishment from the capitol had decided to cooperate with local officials and organized annual Summer Festival. We had two cinemas in my humble little town back then (different times and don’t be blinded and forget the censorship). One was open all year round, and the second one was in a place resembling a Community Centre. But in deep communism it was called Culture Place and was supposed to educate the masses, in reality, control their activities and show them how amazing socialism was and how rotten the Western world is. There was an advantage to it, because in a small town if you found an open minded person, art blossomed – there were dance, theatre, music, painting lessons, you name it. And that’s were the Festival was taking place for a week. It was a different theme every year; comedy one year, SF another, etc. You could get a pass giving you an entry for the whole week for peanuts. There were lectures given by film critics and unofficial after parties.
And there I was, spending the whole week watching morning, afternoon and evening shows with my sister. I watched for the first time ‘Mr Hulot’s Holiday’, ‘L’auberge Rouge’ with Fernandel, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ , ‘Sleeper’. It was like living in a dream…Unfortunately after a successful 3 years of running, it ended. There was probably a film screened which wasn’t allowed to be shown by communistic officials or maybe it was more trivial…I wouldn’t know, I was only 13 at the time. But I will never forget those hot summer evenings when my sister and I were going back home, visually charged.
Which brings me to an adapted version of an old summer afternoon delight; something I called…
Chocolate Muesli Cake:
3 cups water
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup honey
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped dried dates (or figs, apricots, prunes)
1 cup almond flakes
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup pecans
1. Boil water. When the water is boiling, lower the heat. Add oats, cocoa, butter and honey, simmer for 3-4 minutes, take it of the heat.
2. Add the rest of your ingredients, mix well. Spread in a brownie type of baking tin lined with parching paper. Bake for 20-30 min in 170C. Leave it to cool completely before cutting it into squares.