Create and produce an average of twenty-two films a year in a country that equals New York City in size of population can be regarded as quite an achievement. Also, Czech movies are quite successful in their number compared to some other East European countries with film production that usually does not exceed two to five pictures a year. Considering the extremely difficult film funding and finding sponsors or other financial support our movies are produced constantly.
Though in such a high number every Czech movie premier performance is considered a social event. News of upcoming movies is always broadcast on the radio, trailers shown on the TV and details criticized on full newspaper pages. It is sad to say that quantity often outnumbers quality. From an artistic point of view Czech movies do not seem to reach a desired proportion. Recently, there has been much talk about a Czech movie art crisis almost always blamed on insufficient finance, low budget, cut expenses or other financial troubles. Of course, there is no denying money is necessary, but finding new ways of artistic expression could be a challenge for Czech directors.
High expectations that precede every new Czech film are often shattered to the bone after the first official reviews appear. The same scarecrow haunts the new film called Happy Birthday, announced as a comedy in which everybody gets what they deserve. Very well. If you think that mental punishment is what you deserve go, spend your hard earned cash on a humourless comedy.
The two main characters, a taxi driver and his customer, ran into each other in a minor car accident caused by the taxi driver. The situation becomes an excuse for the client to get a blackmail free drive that turns the driver's day into a long nightmare. You could say it is an interesting theme for an interesting story, sad but true, interesting is definitely out of reach this time. Not only you get bored in about ten minutes, but since there is no development in the characters' relationship you stop caring about their well-being later on completely. At the beginning, you know that intolerance, hate and tension between the two of them is very likely to turn into an understanding and possibly a friendship at the end, that the problems they deal with are expected to be solved easily and they are certain to learn from the experience to live happily ever after.
No surprises, no story turnovers, no unexpected twists, no astonishing ending. Just another easy-to- forget movie. Predictable as it seems from the start it sure satisfies the given expectations through to the end but brings no real value, neither to the viewer nor to the film itself. The biggest headache of the movie is the script uneventful, straightforward and unchallenging. In spite of the boring script the movie could pulsate an inner dynamic and lively characters but, though 90 minutes long, it drags us along at a dead slow speed.
My personal criterion evaluating a movie quality is a "watch watch" scale. The more times you look at your watch during a movie the less quality points it gets. Though I would not rate the movie as the worst I happened to see this year (so far it definitely is How to Tame a Crocodile), it got very close to zero.
Generally, Czech films deserve better. Out of the mentioned large amount there are only a few worth seeing, usually those directed and produced by experienced and respectable filmmakers. Czech cinematography would surely appreciate a new film law to be accepted by the Parliament. The current law proposal, unfortunately vetoed by the president, suggested better film funding. Since government and Parliament change is expected after the election leaving the film law proposal dying in the dust somewhere, the film industry is sentenced to ongoing starvation. Debutant directors should seek new ways of expression, film producers will suffer their endless quest looking for wealthy sponsors and film fans must hope and keep their faith in good movies.
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