Pure Genius of Macourek & Vorlíček and a Host of Czech Virtuoso Comedy Legends
This one is possibly my favourite masterpiece from among many created by the Czech comedy titans Vorlíček & Macourek. If you're looking for the Czech counterparts of the American Zucker brothers and the zany type of _Airplane!_ comedy, this is it. What I find most astonishing of all about these comedies: even though they are termed "crazy" comedies by some viewers (especially those critical of the comedies), I, in fact, find them to be *realistic*, believe it or not. In what way realistic? Definitely not in the "fantasy" *action* of the movies; but in the psychology of the characters? By all means! Do silly people, with silly motivations and silly talk, exist in the world, just like they are depicted in Macourek & Vorlíček comedies? You bet they do. If you ignore the "fantasy" elements in Macourek & Vorlíček comedies (or "suspend your disbelief", if you will), and agree to *immerse yourself in the action*, you will find the *manner* of behaviour of the characters "everywhere around you", thoroughly believable.
So, this particular gem, _What About Having Some Spinach?_, was made in the darkest possible modern age of Czechoslovakia: in 1977, soon after the Communist government crackdown on the country's liberal efforts of the 1960s. (Only Stalinism and Hitlerism were worse than that.) So, you'd expect this to be a sterile comedy, saying nothing critical about the society of that time, right? Well, you're wrong! Perversely, what was ubiquitous in the supposedly Communist societies of the Eastern Block, was (surprise, surprise!) the all-pervasive *theft* mentality. Whoever could *steal* something from one's fellow human beings, never hesitated to steal it; if the country itself, or the government, were the victims of the theft -- so much the better!
And so, _What About Having Some Spinach?_ gives us a wonderful portrayal of this "theft mentality", in a society where *officially* everyone was supposed to have had enough, because everyone was sharing everything with everyone else. The reality, naturally, was the exact opposite of the ideal: everyone just kept grabbing, ruthlessly, as much as they could, for oneself or one's own family.
The "theft" theme is admirably intertwined with the plot, its very resolution; the comedy's final line is triumphant in its hypocrisy. Yes, that's what those pseudo-socialist "Soviet" societies were about: a monumental exercise in *hypocrisy*; *pretending* the actual existence and functionality of ideals; but this alleged "comedy", _What About Having Some Spinach?_, shows you the *reality* of those days; the mentality and thinking of real-life people back then.
The plot is immaculate, as if returning to its beginning at the very end; yet this is not vain, but central to the movie's action, tying it all up neatly. For another superb recurring plot device, see the broken sliding hotel door. With lesser screenwriters, a cheap slapstick gag, perhaps -- not with Vorlíček & Macourek, where it's a *crucial* plot element, with the movie's action hinging on it.
I've watched this gem several times already, with a bated breath always; jokes come fast and furious, and it's worth rewinding and rewatching the same passages several times, focusing on a different actor's reactions each time. The actors, one and all, are brilliant. Macourek & Vorlíček were fortunate in their careers to be able to collaborate regularly with the greatest stars of Czech cinema; the most accomplished actors you could wish for, because no "studio system" ever existed in Czechoslovakia. A Hollywood movie like this would be unthinkable: just *too many* top-line stars in one movie (without the roles being cameos).
In _What About Having Some Spinach?_, you get to admire, and boisterously laugh at, among others, Vladimír Meník, Jiří Sovák, Iva Janurová, Frantiek Filipovský, Stella Zázvorková, Helena Růičková, Petr Nároný and Josef Větrovec -- each of them a towering figure in his or her own right. It's incredible, but the leading female star Iva Janurová has managed to outdo herself once again in a "split personality" role in a Vorlíček & Macourek comedy. 7 years earlier, she was brilliant in a multiple-personality role in _You Are a Widow, Sir!_ (another immortal Vorlíček & Macourek classic); and she's no less magnificent and hilarious here, playing both the mother of a family and her own daughter at the same time: frequently in (ostensibly) the same camera shot. Seeing Janurová trampling on restaurant tables on two separate occasions as two separate characters: that's a definite highlight of the history of Czech cinema. The manner of Janurová's enunciation is sensational; she can make any ordinary, one-syllable Czech word sound funny -- in addition to her zany inarticulate ejaculations and, as if, hysterical half-laughs.
The dialogues and wisecracks and one-liners are so consistently witty, and the situations so absurd, throughout _What About Having Some Spinach?_, that if you watch closely, you'll clearly see the actors, sometimes, struggling to keep their composure, and a straight face, in accordance with the script. No such problems for the viewers: I had an ultra-wide grin on my face from one ear to another, for the entire duration of the comedy, which must have been 3 hours or so, due to my constantly rewinding to re-watch the best passages. Except that this is a movie that seems to consist of *nothing but* best passages. There is simply no weakness in _What About Having Some Spinach?_; the action does not flag for an instant. Great theme song by Frantiek Ringo Čech, too, forcefully performed by Jiří Schellinger.
And as so often with Vorlíček & Macourek, there is the laudable "courage" in displaying ribald, or adult-tinged, topics in their comedy. Kids typically love watching Vorlíček & Macourek comedies, yet these gentlemen do not shy away from bits of dialogues, or scenes, that would make a politically correct American film-maker's hair stand on end. Let's only think back to the scene with a school-boy in bed with a mature woman; or the four "kids"' bedtime conversation.
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