Czech That Film 2017
July 7 - August 3
The Gene Siskel Film Center presents Czech That Film 2017 in cooperation with the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Chicago. Provocative comedies and dramas make up this series of six films with broad entertainment appeal.
Six filmmakers take unique looks at family and community, and delve into challenging and sometimes funny aspects of the past in these recent films. A mother’s relationship with her young daughter is haunted by a secret in THE NOONDAY WITCH, based on a folk ballad. A comic tale of two brothers involves larcenous hijinks in THE SNAKE BROTHERS, and a long-suffering husband rebels against his wife’s tyranny in the comedy-drama TIGER THEORY.
The tragic life and execution of a young misfit who commits mass murder is chronicled in I, OLGA HEPNAROVÁ. A scheming schoolteacher manipulates the parents of her students in Jan Hřebejk's biting satire THE TEACHER, and an ambitious Czech film star’s affair with Goebbels is fictionally recounted in THE DEVIL’S MISTRESS.
— Barbara Scharres, Director of Programming
The Devil's Mistress
2016, Filip Renč, Czech Republic/Slovakia/France, 106 min. With Tatiana Pauhofová, Karl Markovics.
As this atmospheric biopic opens, it’s 1934, and the popular young Czech film star Lída Baarová (Tatiana Pauhofová) turns down Hollywood and follows her dream to Berlin’s legendary UFA Studio. Head-turning beauty opens doors for the ruthlessly ambitious but naïve actress, who is soon living with leading man Gustav Fröhlich of METROPOLIS fame. Life takes a fateful turn when she is courted by the married Joseph Goebbels and simultaneously catches Hitler’s eye. With lush period detail and shades of melodrama, director Renč traces Baarová’s dangerous chase the after luxury and fame that comes at a price. In Czech and German with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (BS)
2016, Radek Bajgar, Czech Republic, 107 min. With Jiří Bartoška, Eliška Balzerová.
“Deeper, darker and funnier than most of the Czech family comedy-dramas I’ve seen over the past decade-plus.” — Jason Pirodsky, Expats
A neutered housecat is symbolic of the state in which the three men find themselves in this comedy-drama, as they belatedly reassess life and marriage following the death of the family patriarch. Sixty-something Jan (Bartoška), an easy-going veterinarian, chafes at his wife’s total control of his every move, and foments a rebellion that eventually draws in his mama’s-boy son Erik and his timid son-in-law Josef. Director Bajgar goes for comic overstatement of the tyranny of women as Jan resorts to faking dementia and then insanity in order to escape to the idealized man-cave existence of beer, grilled meats, and non-stop relaxation. In Czech with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
2016, Jan Hřebejk, Czech Republic/Slovakia, 102 min. With Zuzana Mauréry, Zuzana Konecná.
"A surefire crowdpleaser…spiced with plenty of dry, dark Czech humor.” — Dan Fainaru, Screen Daily
A scheming middle-school teacher maneuvers the parents of her students into functioning as her own personal gaggle of serfs. This biting satire from director Hřebejk (DIVIDED WE FALL, HONEYMOON) is studded with sly humor, even as it makes a horrifying case for the insidious power of peer pressure. Set in 1983, in the waning days of Party control, smoothly overbearing Mrs. Drazdechova (Mauréry in a deliciously Machiavellian performance) trades grades for favors that include housecleaning, shopping, cakes and hairdressing, and revels in holding her suburban school community in a steel-trap grip. An unanticipated tragedy is the catalyst for a closed-door parents’ meeting that doesn’t go as planned. In Slovak with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
The Noonday Witch
2016, Jiří Sádek, Czech Republic, 90 min. With Anna Geislerová, Karolína Lipowská.
“Ripe with sensory pleasure…a blazing patchwork of sun-bronzed beauty.” — Stephen Dalton, Hollywood Reporter
A sinister Czech folk tale outlined in a 19th-century ballad by Karel Jaromir Erben and interpreted in a symphonic poem by Antonín Dvorák is the basis for this contemporary psychological thriller, atypically set amid sun-drenched fields of ripe wheat. In the hands of first-time director Sádek, a story once meant to frighten naughty children is transformed as a grippingly creepy exploration of grief and the mother-daughter dynamic. Single mother Eliška conceals the truth about her missing husband from her young daughter Anetka when the two start a new life outside a thinly populated rural hamlet. The ravings and prophecies of a local madwoman cast an ominous shadow, but the true source of the threat begs the question whose nightmare this is. In Czech with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (BS)
The Snake Brothers
Kobry a Užovky
2015, Jan Prusinovský, Czech Republic, 111 min. With Krystof Hádek, Matej Hádek.
“Rough-cast humor with a distinctly sardonic Czech tone…gives testimony to a vitality in Czech cinema that has not been seen for some time.” — Richard Mowe, Eye For Film
The concept of brotherly love takes a mighty beating in this seriocomic story of two thirty-something siblings (played by real-life brothers) occupying opposite ends of the loser spectrum in a ragged working-class town. Viper has larceny in his heart, blithely relieving family and neighbors of their worldly goods when opportunity knocks. Morose elder brother Cobra sees life through the bottom of a beer glass until the day he seizes a windfall opportunity. The coming crazed and crazy standoff between brothers involves betrayal, adultery, drugs, and an endearingly gullible grandmother. In Czech, English, and German with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
I, Olga Hepnarová
Já, Olga Hepnarová
2016, Petr Kazda and Tomáš Weinreb, Czech Republic/Poland, 105 min. With Michalina Olszanska, Martin Pechlát.
“Anchored by a startling performance by Michalina Olszanska…an austere, hypnotic story of sadness, madness and murder.” — Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
In 1973, a 22-year-old woman deliberately drove a truck into a crowded Prague tram stop, killing eight and injuring many more, in a murder method that now seems eerily familiar. This fictional profile of Olga Hepnarová, the last Czech woman to receive the death penalty, relies on a remarkably internalized performance by Michalina Olszanska to convey the long-simmering fury and despair that led to the crime. Olga’s evolution from suicidal girl in a loveless middle-class home to a withdrawn, chain-smoking young adult uneasy with her lesbian sexuality is a gripping journey, made all the more mesmerizing by Adam Sikora’s starkly beautiful black-and-white cinematography. In Czech with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)