Archive for the ‘Czech cinema’ Category

Is the first film that brought Miloš Forman international fame and he followed it with such classics as One flew over a cuckoo’s nest(1975) and Amadeus(1984). Forman’s early movies are still very popular among Czechs. Many of the situations and phrases are in common usage: for example, the Czech term zhasnout (to switch lights off) from The Firemen’s Ball, associated with petty theft in the movie, has been used to describe the large-scale asset stripping happening in the country during the 1990s. Having introduced the director let me now get on with my appreciation of the movie.

Loves of a Blonde (Czech: Lásky jedné plavovlásky) is a 1965 Czech film and it works at different layers. On the surface it is a simple story of  Andula, a young factory girl falling head over heels with a traveling musician for whom it is a one night stand. Whereas the girl her whole life she has invested ,-for its emotional depth I can only cite Renoir’s une partie de campagne (1936) for comparison, and must salvage it from falling to pieces.  Unlike Henriette the Czech girl dares to follow it up.

The film begins with the general (’my hooligan love’ a pseudo Beatle number) to the particular musically represented by  ‘Ave Maria’ at the end. The Bach-Gounod number in this case is meant to be a paen to the blond working girl who in her elemental goodness stands as a modern Maria.

It is also a social satire.

The film takes place in the provincial Czech town of Zruc, which Forman sketches in a few shots: a train station, a housing block, a shoe factory that could have been lifted from any of the East European films of the communist era. Andula, the blond protagonist of the film is a worker in the shoe factory, one among some 2000 who outnumbers male population by 16 to one. The film opens with the benign manager of the factory asking army officials to place a regiment in Zruc, as a way of redressing the local imbalance of available males and yearning females. “They need what we needed when we were young,” the manager says to an avuncular Major who can well understand the manager’s predicament. ‘Sex liberates woman from their drudgery and social isolation’ seems to be the watchword and how the government tries to meet the expectations of the female workforce touches the very flaw of party manifesto as written and in practice.

Froman always had a felicity in casting the right actors for the parts. Just as he made the roles of Baron von Sweiten, Count Rosenburg and the valet in Amadeus memorable the three ‘old farts’ of army reservists who try to date the three workers are unforgettable.

In honor of the army reservists brought to the town a party is organized where girls in all sizes and expectations take part. The age old mating game played in the pub has plenty of room for comedy which the director uses to lead the viewer to the heart of the film. Andula catches the eye of the comparatively dashing young pianist, Milda (Vladimir Pucholt). The next morning, the traveling musician assures her repeatedly, “I do not have a girlfriend in Prague.” Milda leaves town, as expected, but Andula has fallen in love with him, and decides to journey to Prague to track him down. A low-key black-and-white ensemble comedy, Loves of a Blonde was cast predominantly with non-professional actors.

In Prague Andula meets the dysfunctional family of Milda and it is clear that in his parents we have the duplicate the blonde and her feckless groom on the making. Forman’s dark comedy must be seen to be enjoyed. His comical sense reaches its best in the part where the parents try to cope with a strange girl who has intruded upon their private space though it is for one night. From that point the director tickles the funnybone, as it were with a scalpel, and only later we realize that whatever future happiness Andula may have with Milda shall only be a downer, an anti-climax to the trite line we are so familiar with, ‘and they lived happily everafter’.

‘Over the course of the three acts, the film’s context evolves from social satire (set in a public space) to emotional intimacy (confined to the private space of a single room and a single bed) to domestic drama (set in the awkward private-public space of a family apartment). The thematic shifts reflect the shifts in setting: the first section is centered on youth and infinite possibility; the second on young adulthood and romantic fulfillment; the third on maturity and inevitable disappointment.’ (DAVE KEHR Feb 12, 2002-criterion collection)
Similar Works
Dolgaya Schastlivaya Zhizn (1966, Gennadiy Shpalikov)
The Pornographers (1966, Shohei Imamura)
Kitchen Stories (2003, Bent Hamer)
The Firemen’s Ball (1967, Milos Forman)
Noa at 17 (1982, Isaac Yeshurun)
Adoption (1975, Márta Mészáros)

( ack: wikipedia,criterion collection, Allmovie)

It was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1967. It is also known under an alternate title of A Blonde in Love.

Directed by

Miloš Forman

Produced by

Doro Vlado Hreljanović

Rudolf Hájek

Written by

Miloš Forman

Jaroslav Papoušek


Hana Brejchová

Vladimír Pucholt

Vladimír Menšík

Music by

Evžen Illín

Running time

90 min.


(reprinted from cinebuff.wordpress.com)

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Intimate Lighting (Intimni osvetleni to the Czech) is quintessentially a Czech New Wave film. It follows the visit of musician Petr (Bezusek) and his betrothed to old friends in a small country town. A moving tribute by Ivan Passer (who was Milos Forman’s co-writer ‘If There Were No Music’ or Kdyby ty muziky nebyly, 1963) to the pleasures of friendship the film retains a wistful, gently comic and affecting tone throughout. Lasting an admirably tight 72 minutes, it invites us to share a weekend in the countryside with six couples and two small children. During this period a series of outwardly unexceptional events and conversations take place; and it is to the credit of the filmmaker that such intimate grouping and their interaction do not peter out into self indulgent free-for all but each scene freely flows  to another and at the same throw up a great many truths that are revealing of ourselves from the particular to the general. It is the last Czech film by Ivan Passer, a sympathetically directed study of belonging and feel for the place.
The Film
Music plays a large part in the film, beginning with a provincial orchestra essaying Dvorak Cello Concerto predictably without fire and passion and the string quartet rehearsal that for the first time establishes common ground between the three leading men. Among other things there is a brass band accompanying a funeral procession or Grandfather’s snoring which crop up as a leitmotif of provincial life expressed in musical terms.
Petr (Zdeněk Bezušek) and his girlfriend Štěpa (Věra Křesadlová, Forman’s wife at the time) live in Prague and they return to the country to visit Bambas (Karel Blažek) and the latter’s unnamed father (Forman regular Jan Vostrčil). Bambas still nurses some grudge since he was left behind to work as a school administrator and it pops recurringly in their conversation.
Passer delicately counterpoints their low-level squabbling (which, as so often in real life, is never really resolved). Whereas  their women hold a more down-to-earth attitude. In addition to Štěpa, there’s no-nonsense housewife and mother Maruš (Jaroslava Štědrá), and Bambas’ unnamed mother (Vlastimila Vlková), who believes that she was abducted by a travelling circus when young.
The lightness of Passer’s touch recalls Jean Renoir at his peak, and comparisons with the latter’s Partie de Campagne (1936) are not out of place. Like Jean Renoir Passer opted to work in America and sadly nothing as remotely touching the promise he had shown in Intimate Lighting came to fruition. Forman’s regular cinematographer Miroslav Ondříček (whose work was completed by Josef Střecha after Ondříček went off halfway to work for Lindsay Anderson) manages to make the lighting look both meticulous and deceptively casual, the slightly off-centre compositions giving an off-the-cuff feel that is in keeping with overall tone of the film as a whole. The scenes with Bambas’ children are small miracles of choreography and cutting, especially Štěpa and little Kaja’s peek-a-boo game interweaving itself into an early conversation, or the dinner-table scene in which a chicken leg changes plate three times before being accidentally drenched.
Passer has a wonderful eye for absurd but strangely congruous juxtaposition, with first a white then a black kitten held up outside the open window for the string quartet’s reluctant enjoyment, or the incident with the chickens and the car, its bloody conclusion rendered oddly poetic by a perfectly-formed egg rolling up to the corpse. ‘The film’s final shot is too delicious to spoil, but Pauline Kael’s description of it as “a freeze-frame closing gag that’s so funny and so completely dotty that you’re not likely to forget it” is right on the money.’(quoted from filmjournal)
For a non-professional actor, Blažek does an extraordinary job of conveying Bambas’ inner melancholy, though it turned out that part of the reason was that he was dying of leukaemia, succumbing just six weeks after shooting finished and never seeing the finished film.

1965, black and white, 72 mins

* Director: Ivan Passer
* Screenplay: Jaroslav Papoušek, Ivan Passer, Václav Šašek
* Story: Václav Šašek (’Something Else’)
* Photography: Miroslav Ondříček, Josef Střecha
* Editor: Jiřina Lukešová
* Design: Karel Černý
* Music: Oldřich Korte, Josef Hart

* Cast: Karel Blažek (Bambas); Zdeněk Bezušek (Petr); Věra Křesadlová (Štěpa); Jan Vostrčil (grandfather); Jaroslava Štědrá (Maruš); Vlastimila Vlková (grandmother); Karel Uhlík (chemist); Miroslav Cvrk (Kája); Dagmar Ředinová (young Maruš)

•    Crew: Adolf Böhm (sound); František Sandr (production manager); Ludmila Tikovská, Věra Winkelhöferová (production representatives); Jiří Růžička (assistant director); Jiří Stach (stills); Barrandov Studios plus location shooting in Tábor and Mirotice

check out the other blog of the author:cinebuff.wordpress.com


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The Shop…(Obch o Na Korze) is a personal testament of Ján Kádar, and in the best traditions of story tellers it is couched in the form of a story, as much as the Ugly Duckling is a personal testament of the Danish master storyteller. Director Ján Kádar spent World War II in a Nazi labor camp, and his Slovakian Jewish parents and sister died at Auschwitz. “Of all my films, The Shop on Main Street touches me most closely,” he seems to have told the New York Herald Tribune, “I am not thinking of the fate of all the six million tortured Jews … my work is shaped by the fate of my father, my friends’ fathers, mothers of those near to me and by people whom I have known.”
Like all great epic filmmakers, from D. W. Griffith to David Lean, he knew the simple rule of telling an intimate story that touches the heart. Big budget epics of Hollywood may resort to spectacular sets and thousands of extras to dazzle the eye but leave the heart of the viewer untouched. Evidently the production of The Shop didn’t have a big budget. The sweep of world war could only be suggested, and the film underlines directorial control and brilliance to weave an intimate heartwarming story:there is loyalty, betrayal, cowardice and heroism.
It won the 1965 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, The Shop on Main Street) stars Josef Kroner as Tono Briko, a slothful Czechslovakian carpenter. He is not too bright, not too ambitious either.
Thanks to his Nazi brother-in-law,who gives him jurisdiction over a button shop on Main Street owned by Rozalie he barely understands the inevitable devastation of his town and his own role in it. Rozalie is an elderly Jewish widow and deaf as a doorpost.  When the Jewish population is threatened with deportation, she does not, or will not, fully understand Tono’s role as Aryan overseer, benefactor, and would-be savior. He realizes that his new job won’t bring much in the way of money; the old woman doesn’t even know there is a war going on. The shopkeeper’s Jewish friends, knowing that the woman will be carted off for extermination if she doesn’t have an Aryan coworker, offer to pay Tono if he’ll stay on as her assistant. Kroner and the old woman form a friendship, but when the order goes out that all Jews be rounded up, he panics and prepares to turn her over to the Nazis. His last-minute change of heart unfortunately comes too late.
On its initial release, The Shop on the Main Street contained several ingredients that would make it an instant classic. Firstly the  heartfelt drama about the effect of the Holocaust on two humble individuals brilliantly emoted by two actors touched the heart. Secondly the timing. Czechs were dealing with a totalitarian regime of their own and a holocaust of ideological kind. Those who didn’t kowtow to Soviet hegemony were as marked as Jews under the Nazi occupation.

* Genre: Drama
* Director: Ján Kadár
* Main Cast: Josef Kroner, Frantisek Zvarik, Ida Kaminska, Hana Slivkova, Martin Holly
* Release Year: 1965
* Country: CS
* Run Time: 111 minutes
Jaromir Janacek – Editor; Ján Kadár – Director; Ján Kadár – Screenwriter; Elmar Klos – Director; Elmar Klos – Screenwriter; Zdenek Liska – Composer (Music Score); Vladimir Novotny – Cinematographer; Karel Skvor – Art Director; Ladislav Hanus – Production Manager; Ladislav Hanus – Producer; Jaromir Lukas – Producer; Jordan Balurov – Producer; Ladilsav Grossman – Screenwriter; Diana Heringova – Editor; Ladislav Grosman – Short Story Author
Similar Movies
Bittere Ernte; Demanty Noci; Wielki Tydzien; Concorrenza Sleale; … A Pátý Jezdec Je Strach; Divided We Fall; Smrt Krasných Srncu; Do You Remember Dolly Bell?
(Ack: Allmovie guide,answers.com,wikipedia)

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Czech director Jiri Menzel’s Closely Watched Trains (Ostre sledovane vlaky) was the recipient of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1967.  Based on Bohumil Hrabal’s novel of the same name, it tells the end of innocence for a railroad worker who is not very bright and has not much of a career plan either. In the days of Nazi occupation for a Czech of course all such notions are not worth a straw.
Milos, the young apprentice railroader (Vaclav Neckar) comes from a line of failures. His grandfather, a hypnotist, was crushed to death while trying to hypnotize the German army into retreating, and his father retired at the age of 46 and sleeps on the sofa all day. Milos happily takes the trainman’s job, since all he will have to do is stand on the platform and kill time. Just the same he is keenly conscious of his failure in scoring with girls. In such chaotic times of a city under occupation for the young Milos things aren’t as bad as not losing his virginity.
This is a movie about innocence in such dismal times. Young Milos sees various sort of characters as they go about: for example there is a train dispatcher, who delights in rubber stamping his female conquests; and a sweet young conductress (Jitka Bendova) with whom Milos unsuccessfully tries to make out. Fearing he isn’t adequate as a man, he tries to commit suicide. In that department also he turns out to be a failure. Then a friendly doctor (played by Jiri Menzel, the director) suggests that the unhappy youth distract himself while making love (say, think of a soccer game) or find a more experienced woman. When the stationmaster refuses to volunteer his wife, young trainee Milos bravely seeks other candidates and finally succeeds with a resistance fighter named Victoria.
He at last breaks the jinx of failure through love. Relieved and happy to discover that he is indeed a man, the youth sets out to blow up a Nazi ammunition train and
succeeds. In the end he is a hero.
‘Ordered by the Czech Communist government to return his Oscar, Menzel refused, opting instead to make a “repentance” film which sang the praises of collectivism. This second film has long since been forgotten, while Closely Watched Trains remains on record as one of the biggest financial successes of the Eastern European Cinema’. (Quoted from Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide.)

* Vaclav Neckar – Milos, a railroad worker
* Jitka Bendova – Conductor Masa
* Vladimir Valenta – Station Master Max
* Libuse Havelkova – Max’s wife
* Josef Somr – Hubicka, a dispatcher

Alois Vachek – Novak; Jitka Zelenohorska – Zdenka; Vlastimil Brodský – Counselor Zednicek; Jirí Menzel – Dr. Brabec; Marie Jezkova; Kveta Fialova – Countess; Ferdinand Kruta – Max’s uncle Noneman; Nada Urbankova – Victoria Freie
Oldrich Bosak – Art Director; Olga Dimitrov – Costume Designer; Jirí Menzel – Director; Jirí Menzel – Screenwriter; Jaromir Sofr – Cinematographer; Jiri Sust – Composer (Music Score); Ruzena Bulickova – Costume Designer; Jiri Cvrcek – Set Designer; M.A. Gebert – Editor; Bohumil Hrabal – Screenwriter; Bohumil Hrabal – Book Author; Jirina Lukesova – Editor; Zdenek Oves – Producer
Similar Movies
Europa, Europa; A Generation; Skrivánci na niti; Ivanovo Detstvo; Eroica; Black Peter; Tak Nachinalas Legenda; Dark Blue World; Do You Remember Dolly Bell?; Mon Oncle Antoine
* Run Time: 89 minutes

The film won several international awards:

* The 1967 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
* The 1969 BAFTA Awards for Best Film and Best Soundtrack
* The Grand Prize at the 1966 Mannheim-Heidelberg International Filmfestival
* A nomination for the 1969 DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures
* A nomination for the 1968 Golden Globe for Best Foreign-Language Foreign Film
( ack:wikipedia,answers.com,Allmovie Guide)

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