Silvie Dymáková’s raw documentary uncovers the manipulation, humiliation and pressure that exist behind the closed doors of “product demonstration excursions for seniors” in the Czech Republic. The sad heroes of her film show us the non-functional saucepans, unused vacuum cleaners, “wool” blankets and bio-lamps they bought during such excursions for tens or even hundreds of thousands of crowns… and that is the best-case scenario. In exchange for their ID cards, confiscated by sellers, many have signed loan contracts. Despite their shocking experiences, the elderly repeatedly take part in these events in a bid to escape their loneliness or because they can’t say no to the offers. Dymáková succeeded in smuggling a hidden camera into product presentations and, with a psychologist and a lawyer, analyzed the high-pressure methods employed. Even while being completed, her documentary sparked a deserved uproar when it became clear that dozens of Czech firms were abusing seniors’ …
Tag Archives: Czech
Panna a netvor / Beauty and the Beast (1978) Juraj Herz, Zdena Studenková, Vlastimil Harapes, Václav Voska, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery
A more horrific and gloomy version of The Beauty and the Beast. Julie is a bankrupt merchant’s daughter who as the only one of the three daughters chooses to save her father’s life by going to the Haunted Wood’s Castle where she meets Netvor. He wants to kill her, but her beauty prevents him from that. Although she is forbidden to see him she starts to love him and the love rescues him from his curse.
Já, Olga Hepnarová / I, Olga Hepnarová (2016) Petr Kazda, Tomás Weinreb, Michalina Olszanska, Martin Pechlát, Klára Melísková, Marika Soposká, Crime, Drama
My verdict is: I, Olga Hepnarová, the victim of your bestiality, sentence you to death penalty. Those were famous words of 22-year-old mass murder Olga Hepnarová, who in 1973 drove a truck into a group of innocent people in Prague.
Cech panen kutnohorských / The Merry Wives (1939) Otakar Vávra, Zdenek Stepánek, Frantisek Kreuzmann, Adina Mandlová, Comedy
Czech filmmaker Otakar Vavra truly came into his own with his third feature, Guild of the Kutna Hora Virginas, released in the U.S. as The Merry Wives. Though the title was toned down for American consumption, the censors still found fault with the storyline, which concerns a bon vivant (Zdanek Stepanek) who fools around with all available women, especially those who are already married. The hardly exemplary protagonist manages to become a hero by exposing a nest of crooks operating in his community. Much screen time is expended upon Adina Matlova as the town trollop, who turns out to be the most likeable character in the film. Though it earned an award at the Venice Film Festival, The Merry Wives was banned in Czechoslovakia when the Nazis came to power.
Prípad pro zacínajícího kata / Case for a Rookie Hangman (1970) Pavel Jurácek, Lubomír Kostelka, Klára Jerneková, Milena Zahrynowska, Drama, Fantasy, Mystery
Lemuel Gulliver (Lubomír Kostelka) has had a car accident and continues his journey across the unknown countryside on foot. On the road he finds a dead rabbit dressed like a man and takes a watch from its waistcoat breast pocket. The half-ruined house that he enters reminds Lemuel of his childhood and brings up a painful memory of a dearly loved girl Markéta who was drowned years ago. Gulliver finds himself in Balnibarbi, a country where he doesn’t understand the laws and habits and so continually offends against public decency. It is a day when people are ordered to keep their mouths shut and they force their visitor to follow suit. He faces harsh interrogation and finds it difficult to explain that he is not the rabbit Oscar whose watch has been found in his possession.
An older clerk Mr. Borman works in basement offices of the Land Registry which are cakke Catacombs by employees. He has a young colleague Doctor Marek, who falls in love with Nastya, a girlfriend of the Director Krystof. Marek is visited by his friend Rudik, who is arranged to marry Irene, a daughter of the Director. They meet at Catacombs without knowing each other, so Irene thinks he is some ordinary clerk, even though she likes him. At the firm party they meet again and Irene find out, who is the one she supposed to marry. She changes her mind and agrees with the marriage, which she refused before. Because there are not enough men for a dance at the party, even clerks from catacombs are invited. The President of company is used to play whist at the party but there is missing one man for a game. Thus they invite Mr. Borman who is a very good player. Although he is told to let the President win, he completely beats him and moreover he frankly tells him how bad player he is.
Díra u Hanusovic (2014) Miroslav Krobot, Tatiana Vilhelmová, Lenka Krobotová, Johana Tesarová, Comedy, Drama
When she’s not serving regulars in a pub in a sleepy northern Moravian village, thirtysomething Maruna spends time with indecisive mayor Jura, soft-hearted outsider Olin and philandering roofer Kódl. Or she fights with her domineering mother, who is more inclined towards sister Jaruna, the one who gets the chance to leave this godforsaken place. Lightened with a touch of black humor, Krobot’s laconic village drama develops from a superb script, whose authors drew on their familiarity with the people and the region that made their protagonists who they are. Particularly today, when the word “waiting” is perceived entirely negatively, Krobot’s heroes, quite happy to continue living a fairly humdrum existence, might appear to have come from another planet. A powerful element of the film, gradually and carefully built into the plot, is the human respect which Krobot, aided by leading Czech actors, is able to convey to his audience. Somewhere in Moravia betrays a certain affinity with the work of the Czech literary classics, the Mrštík brothers, and with the absurd dramas of the 1960s.
The first Czechoslovak film to receive the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, The Strike is a cornerstone example of political agitprop. Set amidst a worker’s strike in late-nineteenth-century Kladno (the main coal-mining region of the country), the film lays down the battle lines early with its portrait of hardscrabble miners, determined wives, jackbooted military oppressors, and the dandified Germanic elite who control them all. (Made immediately after the war, the film also highlights Czech nationalism in the face of German rule.) Fortunately the film is no mirthless diatribe, but full of verve and a remarkable black-coal realism; Karel Steklý’s direction benefits from the noirish black and white photography of Jaroslav Tuzar, which captures the miners’ underworld realm and their nighttime union gatherings along with the remarkable landscape of the region. The Strike became the model for countless generic retreads in the ensuing restrictive years.
Lásky mezi kapkami deste / Love Between the Raindrops (1980) Karel Kachyna, Eduard Cupák, Vladimír Mensík, Lukás Vaculík, Comedy, Drama, Romance
Karel Bursík (Lukás Vaculík), as a child called Kajda, recalls his childhood spent in Prague – Zizkov. His father (Vladimír Mensík), a shoe-maker, moved there his wife and three children hoping they would escape a country poverty. He soon threw his daughter Vera (Zlata Adamovská) out of home; he did not like her relationship with a married man. The competition of Bata factory was unsurpassable for a minor craftsman Bursík and his neighbours owed him for minor services. The desperate Bursík sent Kajda to sell his mother’s dresses to get money for food. In a second-hand shop, Kajda met his first love.
Jan Saudek – Trapped By His Passions No Hope For Rescue / Jan Saudek – V pekle svých vásní, ráj v nedohlednu (2007) Adolf Zika, Jan Saudek, Sára Saudková, Documentary
Jan Saudek, Czechoslovakia’s most famous living photographer, is the subject of this often-shocking kaleidoscopic biopic by friend and colleague Adolf Zika. With an unblinking eye, Zika chronicles the drama-filled life and work of a controversial artist who, though little-known in the United States, has enjoyed international acclaim throughout his fifty-year career.
Saudek’s hand-painted, sepia-toned portraits have a nineteenth-century veneer but a decidedly postmodern sensibility. Shooting his models both clothed and unclothed, he captures now moments of exhilarating grace, now bizarrely explicit—critics might say prurient—tableaux: A woman in a filmy white gown leads two naked girls into a grim industrial landscape. A haloed baby peers with statements over the brawny shoulders of a naked man. A nude contortionist makes like a flesh pretzel, squatting at the feet of a clothed man in an armchair. Three women dressed like bawdy-house habitués play musical instruments in one image, then appear naked, their expressions giddy and their instruments at rest, in a companion piece.