Jirí Menzel – Vesnicko má stredisková AKA My Sweet Little Village (1985)

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Jiri Menzel of Closely Watched Trains fame directed the sweet little Czechoslovakian comedy/drama My Sweet Little Village. The life’s blood of the titular community is a collective farm. Marian Labuda is the farm’s truck driver, and also the
partner-protector of Janos Ban, who is the village idiot. Like everyone else in the village, Labuda has watched out for Ban and covered up his mistakes, but in recent weeks the situation has become intolerable and Labuda demands a new partner. As Ban prepares to be relocated to Prague, we cut away to various subplots, all of which lead to the same conclusion: the hapless Ban has always been the “glue” that has held the community together. A contrite Labuda heads for Prague to invite Ban to come back home. Originally titled Vesnicko Ma Stediskova, My Sweet Little Village was a 1986 Academy Award “best foreign-language picture” nominee.
~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide Continue reading

Oldrich Lipsky – Sest medvedu s Cibulkou aka Sechs Baren mit Zwiebel aka Six Bears and a Clown (1972)

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Quote:
When the clown named Onion who is the trainer of a circus act involving six bears is fired, he takes a job as a cook at a school. In order to get the job, he has dressed up as a woman. When the bears come to the school to visit their friend, chaos erupts. Not only is no one prepared to cope with six friendly bears, but their visit occurs on the day when the state inspector of schools is to arrive. A chimpanzee named Tony tries to hide the six bears…
A very warm comedy for the whole family. Made by one of the most famous Czech directors.
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Václav Vorlícek – Jak utopit doktora Mrácka aneb Konec vodniku v Cechách AKA How to drown Dr. Mracek (1974)

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Synopsis:
There are still water spirits among us. One group lives in Prague, led by Mr. Wassermann, who is using his wife’s family as a servants. All they need is their old house near the river. But the house is to be demolished. They have to stop it. And the only way is to drown Dr. Mrácek, who is responsible for the demolition. But he falls in love with Wassermann’s niece Jana. He changes to fish, is mistaked for water spirit from Germany, is drowned and revived again. The other problem is the flour with ears… and so on… Continue reading

Jirí Weiss – Vlcí jáma AKA The Wolf Trap (1957)

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Synopsis:
The childless family of the veterinarian and mayor of a small town, Robert Rýdl, and his much older wife, Klára, is joined by an orphaned girl, Jana. The girl is grateful for her new home but she slowly begins to feel a strange atmosphere that reigns in the house. Klára brought her property into the marriage and loves her husband with a possessive and stifling love. The emotionally suffering Robert falls in love with Jana. When he realizes that the girl returns his love, he uses the offer for a business trip to Opava to run away from the insoluble problem. Jana is unhappy, she is afraid of the two spiteful maids and discovers the bad side of Klára’s outwardly kind nature. The two women pay a visit to Robert in Opava. They are walking in the town and something unpleasant happens. Rýdl’s acquaintances think that Jana is his wife and Klára his mother-in-law. Robert Rýdl runs away again, this time to Prague. He leaves Jana alone with Klára who has fallen seriously ill and finally dies. Robert is free but his previous cowardly behaviour destroyed Jana’s love. The girl leaves Robert right after the funeral. Continue reading

Jirí Menzel – Skrivánci na niti AKA Larks on a String [+Extra] (1969)

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Long-Repressed Tale of Repression
The junk heap to which the characters of “Larks on a String” are consigned is a kind of paradise. Here, in the early 1950’s, former members of Czechoslovakia’s banished bourgeoisie are nominally engaged in forced labor, but in fact are free to play cards, discuss philosophy, joke sardonically about their situation and languish as they choose.

The men in this group — among them a professor who refused to destroy decadent Western literature, a saxophonist whose very instrument was considered an offense against the state and a lawyer who upheld the radical idea that a defendant ought to be allowed to plead his case — also spend a lot of time trading secret smiles and sidelong glances with a group of female prisoners nearby. The women, dressed in drably functional uniforms, nonetheless manage to look nymphlike as they laugh and frolic and hum little tunes. The setting is bleak and the season unspecified, but in spirit, it might as well be spring. Continue reading

Frantisek Vlácil – Stíny horkého léta aka Shadows of a Hot Summer (1978)

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Jason Sanders, Pacific Film Archive
Frantisek Vlacil’s Shadows of a Hot Summer shared the Grand Prize at Karlovy Vary in 1978, and drew comparisons to Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs for its tense tale of a gentle man pushed to violence in defence of family and home. Mixing potboiler plot with Vlačil’s trademark poetry, the film is set in the summer of 1947, when remnants of enemy forces still roamed the Czech countryside. A Moravian farmer and his family are taken hostage by a group composed of different soldiers, who fought on the German side during the war. Czechoslovakia is on the verge of accepting Communism; the fighters are desperate to get to the Austrian frontier. The farmer initially yields to his captors’ demands, but as the ordeal stretches from days into weeks, he realizes that he will have to take matters into his own hands. Some interpreted the film as a subversive parable of the Warsaw Pact’s 1968 occupation of Czechoslovakia. “One of the key films of Czechoslovakia’s otherwise sterile post-Prague Spring era … Fitting a nuanced psychology more attuned to Kieslowski into a narrative more worthy of Stallone, Shadows is one of the rediscoveries of the year”. Continue reading

Jirí Menzel – Slavnosti snezenek AKA Snowdrop celebrations (1983)

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Plot:
Episodic misadventures of people living in an isolated Czech holiday village. One man is collecting anything that is a bargain, including only shoes for the left leg (cheaper than buying them in a pair) while another enjoys watching TV with a goat in his coach. When hunters of one association shoot a boar in a school, an argument explodes because the school lies on the territory of another association of hunters. The school teacher, however, manages to reach a compromise: divide the boar meat between the two hunter camps. However, during dinner, the hunters again start a quarrel. Continue reading