WRONG SIDE UP (Czech Republic-Ger-Svk / 2005)
The protagonist of Petr Zelenkas droll comedy of manners Wrong Side Up (Prbehy obycejnho slenstv) wouldnt look out of place in a Kaurismki film. Beautifully played by Ivan Trojan, Petr is a thirtysomething lovable, unambitious "loser" with a dead-end job at the Prague airport. Petrs ex-girlfriend (Zuzana Sulajov) who, despite his shortcomings, might still hold some feelings for him is about to marry someone with better prospects. His nagging pseudo-activist mother has driven his nearly catatonic father, a communist-era newsreel narrator, into the arms of a bohemian sculptor intrigued with his past. Petrs boss, who keeps a list of all the things his wife has thrown at him over the years, is falling in love with a wrongfully arrived mannequin. And if that wasnt enough, Petrs sexually adventurous neighbors would like to hire him to watch them in action. As strange and eccentric as these characters initially appear to be, Zelenka, who reportedly adapted the leisurely paced screenplay from his own successful 2001 theatrical play called Tales of Common Insanity (the Czech title of the film), delicately imbues them with pathos and a sense of longing for someone or something just out of their reach (there seems to an autobiographical edge to the proceedings). Humor doesnt always travel well, especially if cultural specificity is its forte: while Wrong Side Up contains moments and situations that may only find their mark with the local audiences, the composite effect of the absurdist, deadpan tone, which along with Kaurismki also reminds one of Iosseliani and, of course, Keaton (who gets prominently displayed on a wall), is bound to be universal and, ultimately, bittersweet. Regarded as one of the bright young lights of contemporary Czech cinema, Zelenka has said that he would like to be considered as a Czech Woody Allen. Looking at how the globetrotting American filmmaker has damaged his reputation in recent years, he might want to give that another thought.