Perhaps more than any other film of the Czechoslovak New Wave, Vera Chytilová’s anarchic Daisies has transcended its origins and become an arthouse darling. The Criterion Collection hails it as “one of the great works of feminist cinema” and it is only one of two Czech movies to make the exalted Sight and Sound Top 250, the other being Marketa Lazarova. Over 50 years later, it still attracts attention from modern film buffs thanks to its absurd humour, zeitgeisty vibe and abundance of sixties style. Chytilová made many other films, including the popular comedy The Inheritance or Fuckoffguysgoodday, but Daisies remains her most famous work. Sometimes when a director is so closely associated with one film it is fun toContinue Reading

I have a confession to make. Lately, I have become addicted to lame Czech raunchy comedies. There are dozens on Netflix right now and I have the strange urge to crack through every single one of them, even though I know they will be mostly terrible. I don’t know why this craving has emerged, but I’m currently taking heavy doses of Ingmar Bergman and Carl Theodor Dreyer to counterbalance the utter flimsiness of these films. So please bear with me until I overcome this nasty affliction… Next up is Bikers from Martin Kopp (3Grapes), a film that owes a vague debt to movies like American Pie and Euro Trip. As far as modern Czech comedies go, it isn’t anywhere nearContinue Reading

A movie about a 70-year-old woman who goes all Charles Bronson on a bunch of local thugs? Half the fun of writing it must have been thinking up a title. Granny Get Your Gun immediately springs to mind, or, given the spaghetti western motifs in Jiří Hájek’s score, how about A Fistful of Werther’s? No, wait! A Mouthful of Dentures? Or, considering what must have been the film’s main influence, we could just go with Gran Torino… Whatever, Radek Bajgar seems to have missed a trick on the title, ending up with the far more generic Teroristka, or The Lady Terrorist, or Shotgun Justice, as it is also known in English. Then again, there is more to the film thanContinue Reading

A Czech Film Review by Lee Robert Adams A subtitle for this anthology of short films based on the stories of Bohumil Hrabal may as well be “The Czechoslovak New Wave in a Nutshell”, as it showcases the work of five of the movement’s then up-and-coming directorial stars: Jiří Menzel, Jan Němec, Evald Schorm, Věra Chytilová and Jaromil Jireš. While the garrulous voice of the author comes through loud and clear in all segments, each director uses their tale as a framework for their burgeoning filmmaking talents. First up is Menzel … who was the only one of the five who didn’t already have a full feature under his belt, but would go on to have a rewarding long-standing collaborationContinue Reading

A Czech Film Review by Lee Robert Adams The most disturbing aspect of Karel Kachyňa’s superior paranoid thriller isn’t that the protagonists discover surveillance equipment in their house; it is that they have already made concessions in their home life in expectation that someone is listening to their conversations already. Without hiding behind metaphor or surrealism, this forceful, frightening film shows the power the communist State had over its subjects, even those in privileged positions within the regime. As a result, it was banned until after the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Shot in lucid, high-contrast black and white by Josef Illík, the story opens with a bickering married couple arriving home early after a dinner event at Prague castle withContinue Reading

A Czech Film Review by Lee Robert Adams As Ronan Keating, that perennial purveyor of pop pap, once sang: “Life is a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it” – that’s the happy-go-lucky ethos of Men in Hope‘s Rudolf (Bolek Polívka), an ageing lothario and Prague cabbie with 138 extra-marital affairs under his belt. He even had a very movie-land former career as an international rollercoaster designer, providing him ample opportunity to cheat on his wife, and gives us a handy metaphor for his attitude towards relationships. As a man who spent his life building fairground thrill rides, he knows all about the twists, turns, ups, downs and loop-the-loops that only an adulterous lifestyle can offer. Rudolf reasons that a well-timed affairContinue Reading

Sticky

Once on a family holiday, we were walking around the side streets of a small Welsh town when we stumbled upon an old bric-a-brac shop that was closed for many years. Among the dusty collection of forlorn objects in the window display sat a vintage doll with braided hair, a straw hat, and a yellowed cotton dress. Her cheeks were webbed with tiny cracks and one of her eyes was missing. With her remaining eye, she gazed out across the universe like a martyr in a medieval painting. A huge dead spider lay curled up in her lap. That image really troubled my childhood imagination, filled me with a terrible sense of nausea. It is the same feeling I gotContinue Reading

Sticky

I’ve reviewed quite a few older classics recently, so this week I decided to play Random Czech Movie Roulette with some of the newer content on Netflix. I landed on Milan Cieslar’s “romantic comedy” Špindl… Oh dear. Well, I said from the beginning that my blog would cover all Czech movies, including the bad ones, so here goes… Anna Polívková stars as Katka, a sad sack singleton in her mid-thirties (something of a recurring role for her) who hates her job and dreams of one day finding Mr Right. I feel a bit sorry for Polívková. Firstly, she is following in the footsteps of her father, Bolek Polívka, one of the greatest living Czech actors. Secondly, she keeps finding herselfContinue Reading

Sticky

Political satire can take many forms, but sometimes all that’s required is some actors, a few tables and chairs, and a patch of woodland. That’s all Jan Němec needed for A Report on the Party and the Guests, his abstract but high impact critique of life under communist rule in Czechoslovakia. It was considered scathing enough that it allegedly had Antonín Novotný, the president at the time, climbing the walls. The concept of A Report on the Party and the Guests is about as simple as it gets. A group of middle-aged, middle-class lovers are having a picnic in a peaceful glade on a hot summer’s day. There is plenty of food and drink to go around, the weather isContinue Reading

Sticky

After a lean and troubled wartime era, Walt Disney started the 50s with a trio of the studio’s most beloved films – Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. This was the Silver Era of Disney and it lasted until Uncle Walt passed away during production of The Jungle Book in 1966. Around the same time across the Iron Curtain, Jiří Trnka, a Czech film maker referred to as the “Walt Disney of the East” was creating a stunning series of hand-crafted animated features. After an early career illustrating children’s books and learning puppetry, he made his own animated shorts at the end of WWII. His first film with stop motion puppet animation was The Czech Year (Špalíček), which detailedContinue Reading