My Czech Film Festival

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Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby madhuban » Mon Dec 18, 2006 11:00 am

I second arsaib's recommendation Buy it off amazon if you can, or rely on the damn good quality superhappyfun DVD

For some hilarious, Czech sci-fi, check out Vaclav Vorlicek's Who Wants To Kill Jessie


Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby wpqx » Mon Dec 18, 2006 10:15 pm

Lemonade Joe (1964) - Oldrich Lipsky

Oh lord now we're talking. Without rival the silliest film I've seen on this fest, and recalls the anarchic filmaking of Daisies but made two years earlier. Lipsky plays with any and all conventions of the genre, with hilarious sounding musical songs thrown in the midst. It is hard to keep a straight face for more than a moment or two watching this, and a great deal of cinematic experimentation persists. Nearly all of the film is tinted in various different colors, animation, stop motion, canted angles, reverse action, etc. The opening fight in the bar sets the tone perfectly. Obvious stuffed dummies are used, people are thrown about defying all logic, and the fun never stops. Its hard to make an accurate ploy with the film, but it never really ceases to be amusing, and along with the much different Diamonds of the Night I'd put it as the best film of the fest.

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby wpqx » Fri Dec 22, 2006 7:43 am

Black Peter (1964) - Milos Forman

The third of Forman's Czech films I've seen, and this one does nothing to raise my already unimpressed thoughts on his early work. This film was dismissable and forgettable, and was revised to slightly better extent in Loves of a Blonde (another film that didn't do much for me). The coming of age story is a little stale, and most of the humor is lost on me. This is temporarily the end of the festival, and I was hoping to go out on a higher note, perhaps I should have stopped with Lemonade Joe.

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Dec 22, 2006 8:58 am

THE EAR (Czechoslovakia / 1970/89)

Widely recognized as one of the best and most important Czech filmmakers, Karel Kachya (1924-2004) made over 50 films in his long and fruitful career. But his best work came in collaboration with novelist and screenwriter Jan Prochzka during the ten-year span they were together -- the time-period which coincided with the rise of the Czechoslovak New Wave. Their partnership produced nearly a dozen films. Those which were openly critical of the socio-political situation at large are now considered as "black" series films. Hope (1963), Long Live the Republic! (1965) and Coach to Vienna (1966) were a few of the key efforts of the series, though its best might be The Ear (Ucho), a masterful study/critique of the fear and paranoia which comes to fruition under totalitarian regimes.

Adapted from a story by Prochzka, The Ear begins with a stoic Prague deputy minister, Ludvk (Radoslav Brzobohat), and his crude, boisterous wife, Anna (Jirina Bohdalov), as they arrive back home after a hard night of "socializing" with their comrades. Anna appears to have misplaced the keys at the party, but the couple end up getting in through the doors which were meant to be locked. They initially suspect that its their young sons folly. But once they discover that their house is the only one on the street without power, and a trio of trenchcoated men are lurking in the garden, their minds start to wander.

Ludvk attempts to recall the smallest possible details of the conversations he had at the party and what they might all signify. (Kachya has shot those flashbacks from his protagonists point-of-view, thus heightening the claustrophobic nature of the milieu.) Not taking any chances, especially since his boss was recently taken away by the authorities, he begins destroying any papers that might be considered suspicious. Anna, however, still doesnt quite recognize the delicacy of the situation at hand, and takes this opportunity to berate her husband about their dysfunctional marriage. As the personal and the political merge, they form a damning portrait of the societys mores and values. At this point, the "Ear" (one or more electronic listening devices that they believe are present in certain rooms) exerts its presence in their thoughts, especially after they recognize the severity of a few of their remarks about the Party.

The Ear brings to mind several films that feature similar themes and motifs -- the most prominent among them being LAveu (1970), The Conversation (1974), 1984
(1984), and Triple Agent (2004). Much like the Rohmer film, the conversations shared by the protagonists here have a deceptive quality. However, unlike Rohmers Fiodor, Kachyas Ludvk appears to be in much less control of his situation, even though hes sharp enough to decipher his comrades prevarications. Both chamber pieces feature excellent performances, and they heavily rely on their mise-en-scnes, which are mostly comprised of medium master-shots. (One of Kachyas best assets is his visual sense, undoubtedly the product of the time he spent at FAMU in Prague, which was where the likes of Vera Chytilov, Milos Forman and Jaromil Jires also graduated from). But if Rohmer primarily preferred his narrative to remain anti-dramatic, Kachya continually ratchets up the tension as his couple spend the night in dread considering what might happen to them in the morning. And then a shock arrives which causes them to have trouble believing their own ears.

It might be surprising to some that The Ear was the first of Kachya-Prochzka collaborations to be banned. The reason why their earlier efforts had been tolerated was because Prochzka was a respected member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and reportedly had strong ties with President Antonn Novotn. But things changed after the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion. Kachya was fired from the film academy; Prochzka had trouble finding work (he died in 1971 due to cancer). But Kachya found a way to continue making films, though he largely stayed away from confrontational subject matters. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989 overthrew the communist government, Kachya was reappointed at the academy, and, along with numerous other previously banned films, The Ear finally saw the light of day.


*After premiering in 1989, THE EAR went on to play at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival (in-competition!).

*Available on DVD in the U.K. (Second Run). The film is introduced by author and critic Peter Hames.

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby trevor826 » Fri Dec 22, 2006 1:27 pm

Thank's for all these reviews, as stated quite a few of these films are available in the UK and there are more coming. The problem is that in all honesty I'm completely ignorant of most of them so this thread is proving very informative. Now if only someone would release Daisies on dvd, it's one of the few I do know and one I thoroughly enjoyed, anarchic cinema at its best and great fun as well.

Cheers Trev.

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby wpqx » Fri Dec 22, 2006 8:09 pm

Daisies is available in the US, and I just saw a DVD for Lemonade Joe yesterday as well, which is pretty much more of the same. I had thought of ending the fest here, but perhaps the next trip to the library might prove fruitful, and of course I have about 19 more Jan Svankmajer films to watch.

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby arsaib4 » Sat Dec 23, 2006 1:51 am

Right now, I wouldn't mind czeching out that waitress friend of yours. (Btw, I hope you didn't refer to Czech Rep. as Czechoslovakia.)

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby wpqx » Sat Dec 23, 2006 10:09 am

Very clever with the czeching out. She's got a few years on me, but its all good. She calls it Czechoslovakia, so the gloves are off.

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby wpqx » Mon Dec 25, 2006 5:13 am

Well according to Facets online catalog there are 43 more Czech films they have available that I haven't seen, so it looks like this fest might not be over for awhile.

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Dec 25, 2006 5:30 am

Most of them are only available on vhs at this point. Hopefully that'll change in the near future.


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