Arts

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World War II has provided inspiration for movies for over 80 years now, with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of incredible tales. Sometimes I wonder, though, when I see a film as weak as Once Upon a Time in Paradise, whether the well is drying up and people are starting to run out of ideas… That may seem unfair on the source material, Josef Urban’s novel and the true story that inspired it. It sounds like rousing stuff on paper – a talented rock climber hides from the Nazis in the wilderness, evading capture for years – and maybe that is where it should have stayed. It was a similar situation with the Laurent Binet’s page-turner HHhH – an intensely grippingContinue Reading

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On the surface, it can look like Czech identity revolves purely around the country’s vast history and the fairytale aesthetics that come with it. But in the details, you find lots of funny modern quirks, one of them being Pérák. Pérák is a superhero originally created by Jiří Trnka and Jiří Brdečka in 1946 and acted as a sort of mascot for anti-Nazism at the time. He existed as an urban legend for quite some time, but he first appeared in Trnka and Brdečka’s animated film called “Pérák a SS” (Pérák and the SS.) His character is a chimney sweep who accidentally puts his sweep too far down a chimney, manages to get it stuck in a couch, and thenContinue Reading

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Director Karel Kachyna gets his metaphors in early in Forbidden Dreams, otherwise known by its more evocative Czech title, Smrt krásných srnců (The Death of Beautiful Deer). Mr Popper (Karel Heřmánek), a Jewish vacuum cleaner salesman who can’t stop hopping into bed with his female customers, is out fishing in the countryside with his two eldest sons. Through his binoculars, he spots a herd of deer and he is struck by their beauty – but also spies danger threatening in the form of a hunting dog bearing down on the innocent creatures. The dog belongs to their grumpy uncle Karel (Rudolf Hrušínský), who loves getting his teeth into some freshly savaged venison. Mr Popper regards killing a deer as almostContinue Reading

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The first part of Lost Ladies of the Flowers discovered many talented singer-songwriters who flashed brilliantly and disappeared from view. Here are some who tragically fell, some who faded, some who have even returned. Judee Sill “So this guy and me, we began to do armed robberies,” Judee Sill tells Rolling Stone writer Grover Lewis in a rambling 1972 interview. “We did six or seven, liquor stores and filling stations. Sometimes it was quite exciting. We’d go to a motel afterwards and spill the loot out over the bed.” Sill was talking about 10 years earlier. She had been an angry girl, from a violent home. Her inevitable arrest and 9-month reformatory stint were followed in 1964 with eighteen monthsContinue Reading

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During this pandemic winter, I have been time-traveling. Thanks to Spotify and YouTube, I am filling holes in an era I thought I knew well, the late 1960s and early 1970s. I made my youthful musical discoveries then, but only now, half a century later, do I realize how much I missed. The narrative of that lost time of love and flowers is dominated by big names: Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, etc. But it was a seething creative time in America and Britain, with so many talented singer-songwriters who flashed brilliantly and disappeared from view. Here are some who tragically fell, some who faded, some who have even returned. Karen Dalton Sometimes in the early 1960sContinue Reading