Man of Mettle
What a long, strange trip this honorary Oscar took when Jane Fonda handed it to Polish director Andrzej Wajda at this year's Academy Awards. Fonda was the highest-profile "revolutionary" of her generation before embarking on a series of identity shape-shifts that have included Fitness Queen, Trophy Wife, and now Born Again Christian. Wajda spent his life revealing revolution's moral fraudulence. Only Hollywood, in honoring him, could then have committed the kitsch of pairing him with Fonda.
"If you understood what communism was," Fonda reportedly told a Black Panthers fundraiser back in 1969, "you would pray on your knees that we would someday become communists." Wajda knew. His films chronicle the duplicity of the Soviet "liberators" who halted at the Vistula while resistance fighters were slaughtered in Warsaw (Kanal, 1957), the oppression of Polish workers (Man of Marble, 1977), and the rise of the Solidarity movement (Man of Iron, 1981), among much else.
Fonda offered some boilerplate about Wajda's courage, but said nothing of its context aside from a useless reference to "state censorship." Wajda provided his own context. "I thank the American friends of Poland," he said, "for helping my country rejoin Western civilization."