Vyssí princip / Higher Principle (1960/Jiri Krejcik/Czech) +++
Reinhard Heydrich, dictator of Bohemia and Moravia, Hitler's third man
after Himmler, is assassinated by a czech commando in Prague on spring
1942. The 3rd Reich declares a national mourning, and will retaliate
with random executions in Czech occupied territories. Meanwhile students
of Pardubice prepare their graduation exam with the latin professor,
nicknamed "Mister Higher Principle" for his moral lectures.
A frat joke noticed by the gestapo will bring trouble in town. A new
SS commandant is appointed and 3 students are arrested without trial.
Suspicion corrupts mutual respect and friendship among oppressed people
fearing for their life and the safety of their loved ones. The tension
unmasks propensity to individualism or forces heroism.
Through philosophy and roman history the latin professor put into perspective
the condition of being occupied by a tyrant. Ironically the exam subject
is a citation of Seneca, the adviser of bloodthirsty emperor Nero. This
philosopher had to commit suicide when accused of plotting against the
tyrant, which echoes the situation in the film. C:+++ W:++ M:++ I:+++ C:+++
Transport z raje / Transport From Paradise
(1962/Zbynek Brynych/Czech) +++
Opening sequence: Shot from inside a luxury car, on the passenger seat,
shallow focus set on the Mercedes sign on one side of the screen and
a black rigid SS flag at the front of the car to the other side of the
screen. The background is out of focus, we see the road with signposts
on teh side saying "warning", "ghetto", "keep
out"... then some barracks, barriers and a gate. The car pulls
out, the camera pans to the side where an Oberführer waits with
a grin and opens the door.
Music outside, people dancing and singing. Then we notice some klieglight
in the background, and a voice shouting directing orders in a megaphone.
We realize this is a propaganda film being staged.
On the continuity of this exploration of movie set backstage, the camera
opens in a dark cave where silhouettes are hunting a cat. In a few phrases,
some key roles of the story are defined, and anounce already the tension
existing between friends.
A subversive film from the czech new wave.
The first sequence veils the ghetto from the outside with blur like
if nobody should/could see it. Meanwhile the Mercedes sign, like a sniper
crosshair, seems to hunt a target as it is static on the screen and
the road behind it is moving.
The movie set marks the cynical humor of the film. Right away the ghetto
is split between the happy camp the nazi wants the world to believe
in, and the hard reality of a ghetto ruled by fear and discipline.
The Terezin concentration camp in czech occupied territories during
WW2. A general arrives to check the ghetto before approving a visit
of the Red Cross. According to an idea of the führer a film is
being shot in the ghetto, by a jewish director, with staged happiness
and singing children for propaganda purpose.
The general finds a pro-russian poster in the ghetto, "Death to
Fascism", and orders the deportation of 2000 jews from this ghetto
to Birkenau for "special treatment" in retaliation. The dean
of the jewish council in the ghetto, Nobel prize of chemistry who invented
aspirin, refuses to sign the paperwork of this unusual transport and
Until the transport is formed the tension builds up among the people
on both sides: the organised underground of the jews running an illegal
print workshop, also the german hierarchy composed of individuals with
variable loyalty and ambition. The human flaw is the loophole of the
system allowing for the slimest leeway. Even under oppression and the
threat of death, lust is still a powerful drive to bend the minds, the
dark humor of the czech new wave. C:+++ W:+++ M:+++ I:+++ C:+++
Az prijde kocour / The Cassandra Cat / The Cat Who
Wore Sunglasses (1963/Vojtech Jasny) +++
Cerny petr / Peter and Pavla (1964/Milos Forman)
Starci na chmelu / Hop Side Story / The Hop Pickers
(1964/Ladislav Rychman) +++
Mucedníci lásky / Martyrs of Love
(1966/Jan Nemec/Czech) +++
A B&W surrealist triptych, inspired by dream work, a kafkaian universe
and discontinuous montage. Funny and surprising.
Surrealist cinema Award 1966 - Special mention Locarno 1967
Part 1: Martyrs of Love
A young shy bureaucrat dressed up in black like a Magritte model, with
a melon hat and an umbrella, dreams of women legs and spends the night
with a girl he met in a jazz club. Surrealist visual poem about shyness/lust
for erotism / Shots of woman's legs and breasts.
Homage to René Clair's Entr'Acte. Cameo of the girls from Daisies,
and participation of Lindsay Anderson.
Part 2: The dreams of Anastasia. Erotic dream
A girl living on a train, daydreams about erotic fantasies in a castle
with aristocrats, a military wedding and a gipsy. Social and religious
critique to ridiculize ceremonious protocol and discipline, perverted
by veiled libido. Sexual symbols against puritan education. Pursuits
in uniforms in the streets and gardens of Prague.
Part 3: The adventures of an orphan Rudolf. A farce burelesque.
Rudolf is mistaken for Jacob by an eccentric family who celebrate his
return with a champagne feast, undress him and dress him up. A girl
falls in love and begs him to come back. But the house is not to be
found again. Waste of money by eccentric aristocrats, house trashing,
pursuit, absurd idleness of the wealthy. C:++ W:++ M:++ I:+++ C:+++
O slavnosti a hostech/ The
Party and the Guests (Czechoslovakia/1966/Jan Nemec) ++++
a very disturbing film between political satire and abstract theatre.
forbidden during 2 decades in the Communist Block!
4 joyful couples are having a picnic in the woods before heading together
to a wedding ceremony they more or less enthousisticaly anticipate.
the personality of each character is outlined in a few determinant lines
on few key subjects like ambition, marriage, order and food. we notice
the dominants and the passive ones. suddenly the arrival of a strange
shameless man, who ask direct and offesive questions, kill the pleasant
atmosphere of a quiet promenade. politely they ask him to go, and then
push him away, when 20 of his friends appear and grab them by force
to take them to a bizarre improvised trial without charges...
the story is very Kafkaian (re Welles' The Trial), and reminds strongly
of Haneke's Funny Game setup.
the absurd "trial", slides into a man hunt when one of the
guest escaped, and everyone is convinced to get him back through subtle
manipulation of curtesy and flatering. this is scary, and highly politicaly
incorrect (especially when u think it was created under the communist
a masterpiece of manipulation and mise en scene.
Marketa Lazarová (Frantisek Vlacil)
Vsichni dobrí rodáci / All Good Citizens
/ Chronique morave (1968/Vojtech Jasny/Czech) +
Chronicle of a community of farmers, spaning a couple of decades, in
a post WW2 rural village overtaken by the communist rule, in the czech
province of Moravia, before the russian occupation. A realist social
drama, testimony of an epoch, when the idealism of the communism theory
prompted a few men to take control of the workforce and properties for
the greater good. A careful critique of this manipulative process on
the verge of legality using pressure and personal threats. The wealthiest
families are driven away and their farm ceized to form a kolkhoze (collective
farm), although these idealists are motivated by the prosperous economic
plans of the USSR, they have no practical sense to figure how to work
it out. So this authoritarian power is helpless to produce proficiently
as the good farmer with a traditional (and individualistic) knowledge
of agriculture refuse to take part in the project. Their resistance
to defend the moravian identity is an obstacle to be taken care of by
A handful of companions, characterized by a stereotypical trait (pronunciation
impairment, thief, gipsy, greed, ambition, honesty, lust...) are put
into dramatic situation when they have to make a choice, take side,
make a mistake and take responsability. Coveting, suspicion, delation,
murder or suicide. Notably a gipsy who divorced his jewish wife during
the german occupation and drink away his remorse over her death in a
camp. Or the righteous man who prefers to be sent to a rehabilitation
camp than to sell his soul to communism, and insist to finish mowing
his field before they take him away.
Several lyrical scenes bring poetry and irony to the otherwise rather
bleak and banal narration carried out by a recurrant voiceover. Animals
from the dog to the horse, pigs or geese, represent the primordial wealth
of these families who rely on a good production. The music of the church
choir or the bar band plays a structuring part to consolidate the community
falling apart, like the allegorical paintings of the local artist or
the masks of a traditional folklore. C:+ W:0 M:+ I:+ C:++