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.
Tag Archives: Czech
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.
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…
Cutting it Short / Postriziny (1981) Jirí Menzel, Magda Vásáryová, Jirí Schmitzer, Jaromír Hanzlík, Comedy
Short Cut is a comedy revealed more in the acting and witty dialogue than in the simple premise of the story itself: how the Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal was born. Actually, the story is, in many ways, the writer’s conception. The setting is a small town where Hrabal’s father Francine (Jiri Schmitzer) is in charge of a large brewery. Both the blessing and bane of his life is his gorgeous wife Marja (Magda Vasaryova). Blessing, because she is not only beautiful but resourceful and intelligent and lively, bane because every other man would like to get to know her better. Marja saves the day more than once, and the couple are happy in their life together. When Francine’s brother arrives for a visit, an attraction starts to develop between Marja and her brother-in-law that may have upset the marriage, were it not for a fortuitous accident. Marja sprains her ankle and her husband is “forced” to take care of her – alone. Soon after, the town gets their first radio and life takes a permanent turn for a faster lane. Marja cuts her long, blonde tresses and dons a short skirt which mortifies her husband, until he learns they are going to have a baby. It is 1916 and Hrabal is on the way. The comedy will one day continue as he goes from gestation to adulthood and discovers his writing talents at the age of 48. Coupled with the Czech director Jiri Menzel, Hrabal’s comedic writing finds a kindred cinematic spirit. This film won a Jury Prize at the 1981 Venice Film Festival.
The White Lady / Bílá paní (1965) Zdenek Podskalský, Vlastimil Brodský, Rudolf Hrusínský, Milos Kopecký, Comedy, Fantasy
This castle has its own ghost – a mysterious White lady. She emerges from the painting on the wall when someone speaks out magic formula. White lady is good ghost, she can make someone’s wishes true. Even if it is a new duct. But a miracle is not the thing that Communist leaders want in the town.
How Poets Are Losing Their Illusions / Jak básníci pricházejí o iluze (1985) Dusan Klein, Pavel Kríz, David Matásek, Míla Myslíková, Comedy
How Poets Are Losing Their Illusions is a 1985 Czech comedy, the second in a series of films about a young, ideological poet, Št?pán Šafránek, who is studying to be a doctor. The film focuses on the main character’s romantic relationships but is also filled with social commentary.