Czech That Film
June 7 - July 2
From June 7 through July 2, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents Czech That Film in cooperation with the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Chicago. This wide-ranging sampler of the Czech popular cinema includes the picaresque road movie WINTER FLIES, this year’s Czech submission for Oscar consideration; the poignant mother-daughter road movie PATRIMONY; and HASTRMAN, a dark thriller based on contemporary Gothic fiction.
Prolific award-winning director Jan Hřebejk completes his GARDEN STORE family saga with two new self-contained comedy-dramas, DESERTER and SUITOR, following the changing fortunes of a well-to-do clan over more than two decades. A historic Czech basketball triumph and its fraught aftermath in the communist era is dramatized in GOLDEN STING. The final months of a self-sacrificing activist are portrayed sensitively in JAN PALACH. Actress Antonie Formanová appears on July 2 with DUKLA 61, the immersive tale of a mining disaster’s impact on one family
2018, Ondřej Havelka, Czech Republic, 100 min.
With Karel Dobrý, Simona Zmrzlá
Based on the 2001 Gothic novel by Miloš Urban, often called “the dark knight of Czech literature,” HASTRMAN weaves a 19th-century tale of the mysterious nobleman Baron de Caus (Dobrý), who returns to his crumbling ancestral property in search of solitude. A latent ecological theme brings a savvy contemporary note to this thriller about a mystery man with an obsessive affinity for water and a hyper-human side. The count soon takes an exceptional interest in the wild-spirited maiden Katynka, who scandalizes the locals and concerns the less-than-holy village priest with her hoyden ways. Director Havelka lays on the atmosphere as pagan rituals and ancient lore play a dark role in a goblin’s introduction to love and lust. In Czech with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (BS)
2018, Olmo Omerzu, Czech Republic/Slovenia, 85 min.
With Tomáš Mrvik, Jan František Uher, Eliška Křenková
“Further cements the 33-year-old Slavic director’s status as a force to be reckoned with.”—Matt Fagerholm, RogerEbert.com
This Czech submission for Oscar consideration follows FAMILY FILM, director Omerzu’s edgily funny family-disaster film, with a bittersweet comic road movie about two boys who attempt to swagger into manhood only to reveal just how much of the child remains behind their laughably tough-talking facades. Fifteen-year-old skinhead Mára(Mrvik) and chubby twelve-year-old BB-gun toting Heduš (Uher) set out across the barren winter landscape in a stolen Audi, adding a rescued dog and pretty blonde hitchhiker Brána (Křenková of FAMILY FILM) to the entourage. Naïve schemes for sexual conquest of their savvy guest passenger remain smutty adolescent dreams, and the adventure comes to a halt in a rural police station, where dirty tricks will cut both ways. In Czech with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (BS)
2018, Robert Sedláček, Czech Republic, 124 min.
With Victor Zavadil, Denisa Barešová
“Director and writer steer away from hagiography, sensationalism or dry political drama to tell the human story.”—Meredith Taylor, Filmuforia
JAN PALACH portrays the final critical months in the life of “Torch Number One,” the Czech national hero who died by self-immolation in Wenceslas Square to protest the 1968 Soviet occupation of his country. Director Sedláček eschews reverence and mythology for an engaging psychological study of the 20-year-old philosophy student’s path to political martyrdom. Jan (a nuanced performance by Zavadil) and his university friends are buoyed by the promise of the Prague Spring, but their idealism is short-lived. A passive loner who can stand up for the bullied when provoked, Jan struggles with the ideological contradictions in his own family background as he methodically develops a furtive plan for solitary resistance. In Czech with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
The Golden Betrayal / Zlatý podraz
2018, Radim Špaček, Czech Republic/Slovakia, 106 min.
With Filip Březina, Patricia Volny
This fictionalized story of the basketball team that scored the unprecedented Czech win of the European championship in Geneva in 1946, when the game was still in its infancy in Eastern Europe, creates a four-way intersection of comedy, pop culture, sports lore, and political tragedy. The briskly-told underdog tale begins in a post-liberation euphoria, when young lawyer Franta (Březina) revives the team founded by their beloved former coach, who was imprisoned and executed in the early days of WWII. Fueled by naïve enthusiasm more than technique, the team makes its way to Geneva and puts up in a brothel, where the ladies of the evening cheer them on to a hard-won victory. In a darker turn, the nation’s subsequent communist coup brings on rivalries and shifting loyalties. It’s a whole new game when an altered team arrives in Paris in 1948 to defend their title. In Czech with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (BS)
2017, Jan Hřebejk, Czech Republic, 115 min.
With Jiří Macháček, Karel Dobrý
This second installment in director Hřebejk’s sprawling GARDEN STORE trilogy (in which each film is a self-contained drama) is set in the years immediately following WWII, when a brief period of relative freedom and license gives away to communist party rule, impacting the three prosperous families at the center of this saga. Blustery mustachioed Otto (Macháček) indulges his outsized entrepreneurial spirit by opening a swanky spa and hair salon, complete with imported espresso machine. When a dim-witted young party lackey usurps control, Otto’s short-lived revenge plays out in a comic set piece worthy of The Three Stooges, but has bitter repercussions. Family fortunes go from riches to rags, and the theme of desertion is both personal and political. In Czech with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (BS)
2017, Jan Hřebejk, Czech Republic, 113 min.
With Anna Fialová, Martin Finger
“Sweetly charming…one of the highlights in a banner year for Czech cinema.”—Jason Pirodsky, Prague Reporter
A satirical tale of star-crossed romance dominates this final installment in director Hřebejk’s decades-spanning family chronicle GARDEN STORE (in which each film is a self-contained drama). Set in the 1950s, with the communist regime firmly in place, this story puts paranoid dad Jindřich (Finger) in ongoing conflict with his luscious blonde daughter Daniela (Fialová) after her summertime fling with penniless rural hunk Mirek proves to have staying power. Hřebejk brings a master’s eye to comically reshaping types and stereotypes, including the roundtable of dissident Sunday dinner guests, the loutish engineering student who is Jindřich’s own pick as his daughter’s prospective mate, and a handful of eccentric aunts living on the family’s former glory. In Czech with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (BS)
2018, Jiři Vejdělek, Czech Republic, 90 min.
With Eliška Balzerová, Tatiana Vilhelmová
The untimely death of a womanizing trumpet player hits his widowed wife Eva (Balzerová of TIGER THEORY) and his adult daughter Teresa (Vilhelmová) hard, in this comedy-drama that taps into the lighter side of family secrets. Teresa, dealing with chemotherapy and a failing marriage, meets her mother’s guilty confession of her own many marital indiscretions with a level head, and fixes instead on a vague clue that her dad may have fathered a son during one of his long-ago affairs. Mother and daughter set out on a road trip to visit all the dead man’s former lovers, driving his pampered but finicky vintage Volga. Goofy surprises and a few disappointments await, but the search is turned on its head with the rediscovery of a trove of letters. In Czech with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (BS)
2018, David Ondříček, Czech Republic, 150 min.
With Marek Taclík, Martha Issová, Antonie Formanová
Centered on a mining disaster that took the lives of 108 men on July 7, 1961, DUKLA 61 is an expansive, emotionally resonant portrait of a family that begins when college student son Petr brings home his pregnant girlfriend Jana (Formanová). Declaring that he will abandon his studies and become a miner like his father Milan (Taclík), Petr dashes his parents’ hope for their eldest, and plants seeds of discord that grow with the young couple’s live-in presence in a home crowded with younger children. This gripping two-part drama represents a masterwork for director Ondříček (IN THE SHADOW), with the pressures, worries, and intergenerational conflicts of family life ultimately intertwined and upstaged by the tense, chilling lead-up to the horror of the accident waiting to happen. In Czech with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)