My Czech Film Festival

This is the place to talk about films from around the world.

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby wpqx » Sat Feb 17, 2007 10:02 pm

The Strike (1947) - Karel Stekl

Strike was the first and only Czech film to win the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and watching it today, the film has lost none of its power. It is not overtly heavy-handed like Eisenstein's similarly titled film. Karel Stekl doesnt' make any attempts to intercut the greedy capitalist owners with pigs, or grotesquely shoot them. Seeing how this film was made right at a crucial time in Czech history, its subject matter was relevant. The film is based on a real incident in 1889, but this is used more to create a historical perspective than anything else. Like On the Sunny Side, is almost entirely shot on location. Stekl has a firm grasp of what to do with a moving camera, and some of his tracking shots recall Milestone's All Quiet on the Western Front. Now what is confusing in the film is the strike. There seems to be a strike, but it doesn't seem to be unified, and we are denied a great deal of information. There never really seems a unified front, and that way when the strike is declared officially over, we're not sure if it is any different. There are some great scenes for emotion, and what is most striking is the non-resolution. The film ends with the strike defeated, and no better conditions. The call to arms is much more effective though. We are so used to films of civil unrest ending with a victory for the once opressed, not for the opressor. This is painfully bitter, and makes a historical connection that this intolerable condition will be forever done away with by the Communists. It is a very left wing film, and in today's growing anti-right climate the film is well worth watching. Definitely the better of the two from the opening night.

*As a side note, this series at Facets could not be handled worse. I am unable to attend tonight's two films (which will not be repeated), and I most likely will have to miss the films shown on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. This is by far the worst week that they could have this, and I'm honestly pissed off that there are virtually no encore showings. I only hope that these newly rediscovered films can get an official release.
wpqx
 


Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby wpqx » Mon Feb 19, 2007 1:40 am

The Kreutzer Sonata (1926) - Gustav Machat

Here's a rarity in Czech film, luxury. For the first, and as of now only time I've seen protaganists that are very clearly in the upper class. This appears like it might be a Lubitsch-esque tale of marital infidelity if it didn't take itself too seriously. Unfortunately it does take itself too seriously. The tale utilizes the all too familiar prologue and epilogue of the story within a story. This story is about a man driven by an insane jealousy to kill his philandering wife. Despite the wife proclaiming innocence throughout, her husband tells the story as a defeated, bitter, and broken man. When the film begins he is the epitome of the 1920's socialite, and his surroundings could just as easily come from Hollywoood. As the film progresses, he settles down, and his once demure wife becomes the raging party animal. A double standard of types applies here, and proves fatal. A little heavy handed and melodramatic, but definitely a curiosity considering the nation it came from.
wpqx
 

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby wpqx » Mon Feb 19, 2007 1:47 am

Such is Life (1929) - Karl Junghans

A bit of an improvement this film is extremely European. Blending elements of German and Soviet cinemas Karl Junghans has created a remarkable film. The cutting in this film is extremely intricate. Junghans doesn't insert non-diegetic images, but he is frequently juxtaposing images, like a pepper grinder and a record player in one scene. The cutting is almost indistinguishable at times, with shots lasting literally one frame. Frequently during the film I thought my eyes might be playing tricks on me, and I was seeing superimpositions. Its structure however seems to originate more from Murnau. Each segment of the film is broken into a chapter title, and that is it. There is no dialogue in the film, and there is no burdensome exposition. This may take awhile for the story to really come together, but it can be followed. Now it may be a little hard to watch at times, and tragedy is abundant in the story, but its execution is done so well that a little melodrama isn't much of a problem.
wpqx
 

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby wpqx » Sun Feb 25, 2007 12:14 am

Faithless Marijka (1934) - Vladislav Vancura

A slightly fragmented and weak story about the life of a wood cutter. The film is a curiosity today in its depiction of the town's Jews, who are shown with characteristic long beards, big noses, and of course money grubbing swindlers. In ths light the film may seem a little tough, but looking at the time it was made, one shouldn't be too surprised. The main character here has his house burnt down, and after rebuilding it, eventually loses it to the hands of Jews because of his unpaid debts. In the process a little marital infidelity is thrown in. This film was none too captivating for me, and has gone largely forgotten.
wpqx
 

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby wpqx » Sun Feb 25, 2007 12:25 am

The Distant Journey (1949) - Alfred Radok

Now my thoughts on this film might be a little rough. This was the first time I have ever seen a film about the Holocaust where I wanted the main characters to die. The main characters are an interracial couple, a Jewish woman and an Aryan man. Now why I wanted them dead is slightly morbid, but they are not likeable characters. The woman is selfish and stubborn and her choices cause her whole family to die. She refuses to leave when the whole family could go, and the result was that they got sent away, she was spared temporarily because she was married to an Aryan. It is her husbands love of her that gets himself in a concentration camp. This pair is a little stupid, and caused unnecessarily death to their family. Also I might add that I was actually sick of seeing films about the Holocaust where the main characters live. The survivors of the Holocaust were a small minority, yet surprisingly occupy nearly 99% of all films about it. There were some good touches, and the film is rather well made in its compositions, I just found no ability to identify with these selfish and stubborn leads.
wpqx
 

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby wpqx » Thu Mar 15, 2007 9:24 pm

Alright even though this is out of place, the ? marks replacing accent marks is getting really old. I just watched about a dozen Jan Svankmajer films, and my god the man is a genius. Its easy to see why his films are so short, because I couldn't imagine anyone having that sorto f patience. Even a film that uses live action, like Food is done with animation. His films rarely if ever make sense in a traditional sense of the word. Kino has collected the bulk of his shorts on a two-DVD set, and it serves as a fine introduction to his work. Hard to even imagine the type of patience he had to put these films together.
wpqx
 

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Mar 27, 2007 6:29 am

Don't forget to watch his new film, Lunacy, which is now available on DVD.
arsaib4
 

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby wpqx » Fri Mar 30, 2007 11:50 pm

Conspirators of Pleasure (1996) - Jan Svankmajer

What a strange film. Svankmajer's first largely live action film contains not a single line of dialogue, and is unsettling in its grotesqueness. These characters all have a peculiar fetish, and good lord the things that get people off. Svankmajer can't resist the chance to use some good old fashioned stop motion, a little clay, and the usual assortment of strange instruments. Bread crumbs snorted, a flying human chicken, a large variety of fur and nails, a very personal newcast, and some carp. Never ceasing to be on the outside, there is no traditional plot to it, but everyone's perversions at the end somehow start to bleed into each other, and you get the feeling that we could be in store for another round of perverted mayhem.
wpqx
 

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby arsaib4 » Fri May 11, 2007 8:32 pm

This insightful piece on The Cremator, one of the very best films I've seen recently, expands on some of the points wpqx introduced earlier in his post. I'm glad that the author referred to the New Wave as Czechoslovak.
arsaib4
 

Re: My Czech Film Festival

Postby wpqx » Tue Jun 19, 2007 8:54 pm

Three peat of Czech films yesterday.

1. All My Countrymen (1968) - Vojtech Jasn
From the New Wave this film has "instantly banned" written all over it. The film takes place during the socialization of Czechoslovakia and everyone's somewhat reluctance to accept this new system. Along the way nearly every authoritative figure meets with an untimely and ironic death. Certainly one of the most satirical of Czech films, and very openly so.

2. The Plastic People of the Universe (2001) - Jana Chytlova
This is a documentary made about one of the most notorious bands in Czech history. Named after a Frank Zappa song and forming after hearing the Velvet Underground's first album this group is beyond odd, and their music reflects the tumultuous time between the Soviet clampdown. The group was eventually reunited at the insistence of the Czech president, and that was the reason for this chronological documentary. Certainly an interesting breed of characters, and spotlighting one of the lesser known oddities of music.

3. Wonderful Years That Sucked (1997) - Petr Nikolaev
Without a doubt one of the best Czech films I've ever seen. With an ironic title like that the film wastes little time in setting up its comedy, and remains extremely funny throughout, without ever really entering into slapstick. Based on the autobiographical writings of Michal Viewegh, the film is something of a coming of age story for a nation, trying to have some ideals and patiently waiting for things to get better. The film runs roughly from the years immediately proceeding the Soviet invasion and the Velvet Revolution. Along the way we have many fascinating characters and lovely portraits of provincial and city life. Not a dull moment, and the film even features a clip from The Cremator, so you can't go wrong with that type of inside reference.
wpqx
 

PreviousNext

Return to Film Talk

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Exabot [Bot], Yahoo [Bot] and 2 guests

cron