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SELECTION OF CZECH FILMS

- Zelary, Ondrej Trojan (2003)  - see also

-Kolya, Jan Sverak (1996)

-Pelisky, Jan Hrebejk (1999) - see also

- Tri orísky pro Popelku: Three Wishes for Cinderella, Vacláv Vorlícek (1973) - see also

-Vesnicko má stredisková:My Sweet Little Village, Jirí Menzel (1985)

 

STUDENTS' REVIEWS

Zelary
Directed by Ondrej Trojan
Sony Pictures Classics 09/04 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - violence, some sexual content  

During the 1940s, the Nazis occupy Czech lands and have made life miserable for everyone. Eliska (Ana Geislerova) has been forced to return to nursing because the medical school she was going to attend has been shut down. She works in a big city hospital alongside Richard Littner (Ivan Trojan), her lover who is a surgeon. They are also involved in the resistance movement with their colleague Dr. Chladek (Jan Hrusinsky). However, when things go awry, Richard flees the country and the resistance decides that the only safe place for Eliska is with a patient she recently gave blood to save. Joza (Gyorgy Cserhalmi) is a big-hearted man who lives alone in the mountain community of Zelary. It is evident on their arrival in a small town near their destination that Eliska's urban dress and appearance set her apart from others. When they finally get to his cottage, she asks "Where’s the yard?" and he replies quite baffled, "Everywhere."

At first, Eliska rebels against the changes she must make in order to survive in a close-knit community where nearly everyone knows that she is an outsider. She slowly realizes that there is no other choice but to marry Joza and stay with him until the war is over. It is a long and hard process for these two strangers to adjust to each other when they have absolutely nothing in common. He is very patient with her, understanding that she will learn to live in her new surroundings at her own pace. Eventually, Eliska becomes Hana. She befriends an outspoken little boy who is hated by a disciplinarian principal at school and banned from his home by his violent and alcoholic stepfather. When the community's midwife learns that Hana has nursing skills, they become allies. Although Eliska and Joza try to nurture their own small share of happiness, the struggles and tensions within the community keep intruding. And the war refuses to go away as random killings in the area bring fear into everyone's household.

Zelary was Czechoslovakia's 2003 entry for the Academy Awards and was nominated in the Best Foreign Language category. Ondrej Trojan directs the story, which was inspired by actual events in Kvita Legatova's autobiographical novel Jozo Vahanule. It is a convincing portrait of the resilience needed to survive in a world of constant danger. Further, it proves that there is no safety anywhere given the human propensity for violence. Ana Geislerova puts in a stellar performance in the lead role.

KOLYA

Director: Jan Sverak
Producers: Eric Abraham, Jan Sverak
Screenplay: Zdenek Sverak

Prague, 1988: the twilight of communism in the Czech Republic. As the Iron Curtain begins to collapse all across Eastern Europe, the collective voice of the Czech people is finally heard in what became known as the "Velvet Revolution." Yet, even with such world-shaping events happening in the background, Kolya is still a deeply personal motion picture that has far more to do with the human soul than with the political restructuring of a country.

The film opens by introducing us to Louka, a 55-year old professional cellist who has three great passions in life: music, women, and disdain for the Russians occupying his country. Because of a past blunder, Louka is forbidden to perform in the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, where he once held a revered post. Instead, he must work menial jobs, such as refurbishing grave headstones and playing his instrument at cremations. But Louka is fighting a losing battle against poverty -- he's in debt and sinking fast. However, financial stability becomes a tantalizing possibility when his friend, Broz (Ondrej Vetchy), offers him a proposition.

If Louka, a confirmed bachelor, agrees to a marriage of convenience with a young Russian woman (she needs Czech citizenship), he'll be rewarded handsomely. Against his better judgment, he agrees, but the results are disastrous. His new bride runs off to West Germany to be with her lover, and Louka is left behind minding her 5-year old son, Kolya. Then a strange thing begins to happen - the harder Louka tries to get rid of the boy, the more he becomes attached to Kolya.

One of the reasons why Kolya satisfies is that it effectively marries the metamorphosing political umbrella with the changes in Louka's personal circumstances. Essentially, this is a tale of new beginnings. Louka, who has wandered through life living only for his music and never wondering what it might be like to have a family, experiences not just a rejuvenation of his soul, but a rebirth, even as a different country is rising out of the ashes of the former socialist dictatorship. Kolya opens Louka to experiences and emotions he never believed possible, and at age 55, he discovers new meaning in an isolated existence that had grown repetitious.

Without question, Kolya is a beautifully composed motion picture; there's an almost-poetic quality to the manner in which many of the scenes have been framed. The film also boasts a strong cast. This film was awarded by Oscar prise.

Pelisky

Acclaimed Czech filmmaker Jan Hrebejk directs this bittersweet coming-of-age story set in the months leading up to the ill-fated 1968 Prague Spring. Teenager Michal Sebek (Michael Beran) develops a serious crush on his hip neighbor, Jindriska Kraus. The problem is that his family is headed by a dull-witted army officer who believes that the latest East German Tupperware will sufficiently shame those American imperialists, while her father is an ardent foe of the Communists saved from prison only because he is a war hero. Much to the parents' dismay, the younger generation couldn't give a fig for politics. Instead, Michal sports a Beatles mop-top and runs a local film group specializing in Hollywood and pre-war French films, while Jindriska starts hanging out with a mysterious hipster. Pelisky was screened at the 1999 Vancouver Film Festival.

Three Wishes for Cinderella

Popelka is the much put upon stepdaughter/sister of Mother and Dora. Her only joy comes in the rare moments when she gets to escape to the surrounding forest, riding her white stallion which her father gave her three years ago before his death. But those times are few as Mother can always make up impossible tasks when there is no other work to be done. Luckily helpful pigeons are always ready to lend a beak for those seed sorting nightmare jobs

Meanwhile the King and Queen are trying to get some actual knowledge

But his parents insist on hosting a ball to find him a wife and when a servant is sent to town to buy material for Mother and Dora’s new dresses, he also brings back something for Popelka – three magic nuts. From one of them she gains a beautiful new ball gown and dazzles the young Prince before setting him a riddle. He must find her then tell her who she is before she’ll agree to marry him. But Mother is determined to get the Prince to marry Dora instead. Is he resourceful enough to dodge Dora then find his lady love and win her hand?

This is a darling little production. And with its winter setting, it’s perfect to watch this time of year. I must disagree with a lot of comments at IMDB about how inferior the Disney versions of Cinderella are compared to it though. They are just different and both equally good in their own right.

Here Popelka is a feisty young woman who can best just about any man in the kingdom. The winter scenery is gorgeous She rides like the wind, can shoot a crossbow with deadly aim as well as being cute as a bug’s ear and dancing like a cloud. She also seems a touch smarter than her Prince which will hopefully be passed on to their children. Meanwhile, the Prince starts out a bit of a handsome wastrel but I’ve no doubt that Popelka will snap him into shape before too long.  

Vesnicko má stredisková (My Sweet Little Village)

Director: Jiri Menzel

Comedy is about the people who inhabit a small town. For years the overbearing Pavek has endured Otik, the "town idiot," sharing his meals and the front seat of their dump truck. But Otik is such a sweet-natured fool that Pavek, exasperated as he becomes, always relents on his threats to find another partner. This Laurel and Hardy-like pair are at the heart of a comedy which finds humor in an abundance of everyday situations. The town doctor regularly wrecks his car because he's admiring the scenery, a romantic teenager develops a hopeless crush on his sister's schoolteacher, and an adulterous housewife and her boyfriend are just one step ahead of her suspicious, hot-headed husband