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.
Tag Archives: Czech
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.
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.
Following their collaborations on A Novel for Women and The Holiday Makers, Czech filmmaker Jan Hrebejk and author Michal Viewegh reunite for Shameless, a comic romp based on Viewegh’s bestselling Tales of Marriage and Sex. Oskar is a television weatherman who has fallen out of love with his nasally endowed wife Zuzana. Undergoing a midlife crisis, he begins a series of affairs. Having begged out of the family vacation at a mountain resort, he falsifies the weather forecast – convincing his wife and son to stay sequestered from the ostensible blizzard so he can bed the family nanny, an immature blonde. Fired for his ballsy behavior, he finds work as a driver for drunk bargoers, scooting around the city on his minibike in search of work and women. But as his conquests continue, they prove to be less and less fulfilling. Take the much older singing sensation Nora, who enchants Oskar with the lilting voice that accents much of the Shameless soundtrack, then leaves him when the father of her children dies. Or the hooker who seduces Oskar in a bathtub. And as for Zuzana – she has crafted a far better relationship with a new lover, one who appreciates the size of her nose. While cameos from Czech media celebrities add to the film’s authenticity and humor, its setting in a nameless Eastern European city adds a touch of poignancy: against a nighttime background of historic architecture and twinkling lights, Oskar’s quest for sex as meaning pales.
The Very Late Afternoon of a Faun / Faunovo velmi pozdní odpoledne (1983) Vera Chytilová, Leos Sucharípa, Libuse Pospísilová, Vlasta Spicnerová, Comedy
The strains of Debussy’s “Afternoon of a Faun” waft through this amusing comedy about an aging lecher’s ever-optimistic pursuit of the fair sex, for fair sex, or better. The “faun” wakes up to a new day of happy hunting because the proof of the pudding is irrelevant, it is the joy of finding the ingredients that matters. Whether out on the streets or at his job in an office, he does not relent in his hopeful approaches to mainly young women, who mainly ignore him. No one is more aware of his skirt-chasing than an older companion in the same office who has loved him from the beginning. And the big question is, will the late-blooming Don Juan come to his senses?
The Jester’s Tale / Bláznova kronika (1964) Karel Zeman, Petr Kostka, Emília Vásáryová, Miroslav Holub, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy
The Thirty Years’ War is seen from the point of view in this satirical slapstick comedy that combines engravings, old cartoons, montages, special effects, and film. The positions of both sides of the religious war are fair game for biting satirical jabs. Petr (Kastka) plays a peasant who is pressed to join one side before being captured by the enemy and mistaken for a Duke. Matej (Miloslav Holub) can change sides quickly with his reversible cloak. Lenka (Emille Vasaryova) disguises herself as a jester to avoid the conflict and gives her comments about the pompous futility on both sides of the conflict.
10 Rules / 10 pravidel jak sbalit holku (2014) Karel Janák, Jan Dolanský, Daniel Rchichev, Kristína Svarinská, Comedy, Romance
Shy student of astrophysics Marek falls in love with Stephanie, the Slovak-speaking daughter of the French attaché. As the result of an initiative by his three flatmates, his father starts advising him, although they had not been seeing each other. Being the publisher of popular bestsellers about conquering the other sex, the father compiles ten rules for his son to help him win the girl’s heart. That includes, among others, getting rid of a rival, a rich whippersnapper constantly surrounded by a host of his ex-girlfriends. Marek finally understands that what works is not horoscopes and chat-up lines, but being himself…