Possibly the most shattering indictment of totalitarianism to come out of a Communist country, this film was completed just after the Soviet tanks rolled into the streets of Prague in 1968. It is an astonishingly honest and disturbing film not only for its devastating attack on Stalinism, but also for its uncompromising view of the hypocrisy of political turncoats and the opportunistic new middle classes. Chronicling one man’s journey from youthful frivolity through political imprisonment to final awareness, it is a chilling examination of a corrupt society blighted by fear as much as by the cynicism that pays lip-service to ‘humanitarian’ ideals. Continue reading
This dreamlike fairytale captures the coming-of-age of a young Czechoslovakian girl. After receiving a pair of earrings, strange things begin to happen to Valerie. As her burgeoning sexuality sparks even more haunting escapades, Valerie must contend with an explosively surreal world that challenges and inspires her.
Filmed in and around beautiful South Bohemia, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is mostly set in Prague in what seems to be either medieval or turn of the century time period.
The beginning of the film follows Valerie, played by the enticing Jaroslava Schallerová, as she explores her wonderland and interacts with the characters within it with wide-eyed wonder and curiosity. While a lot of the film is up to the viewer to interpret if they choose to, the crux of the story centers around Valerie and a pair of magic earrings that have been stolen from her by her ‘brother’. These magic earrings protect Valerie and keep her (and others if needed) from dying. Valerie lives with her religious, rosary carrying grandmother (Helena Anýzová) and as the dream starts, has just found out that a troupe of actors will be arriving in town to perform for the wedding of a local girl, as well as a missionary who is returning from abroad. Continue reading
One of the defining works of the Czech New Wave was the portmanteau film Pearls from the Deep (Perlicky na dne, 1965). Not only did it bring five key directors of the Wave (Chytilova, Jires, Menzel, Nemec and Schorm) together in one film, making it the Wave’s official “coming out” as a group, but it tied them to a writer, Bohumil Hrabal, whose ability to capture the rhythms and refrains of everyday spoken Czech was highly influential on the Wave’s direction.
Jiri Menzel (Closely Watched Trains), Jaromil Jires (Valerie and Her Week of Wonders), and three other directors from the 1960′s Czechoslovak New Wave contribute witty, entertaining shorts, each based on a different story by legendary writer Bohumil Hrabal. The anthology showcases the groundbreaking styles and bold new themes of a new cinematic era. These young directors took advantage of a more liberal political climate to make films that were daring in both content and style. Includes Mr. Baltazar (Jiri Menzel), The Swindlers (Jan Nemec), House of Joy (Evald Schorm), The Globe Buffet (Vera Chytilova), and Romance (Jaromil Jires). Continue reading
Synopsis: While a woman is in the hospital preparing to deliver her child, her husband has all day to reflect upon his wife and their relationship. As he tends to his job as a television repairman, Slavek fondly remembers how he first met Ivana and the days they spent getting to know one another. Slavek also grows increasingly aware of the environment that surrounds him and questions the society his new child will be entering. Loaded with a repeated plea for social change, this is the first feature from Czech writer/director Jaromil Jires. (Kristie Hassen, allmovie) Continue reading