You can spot good Eastern European cinema by following the trail of social upheaval and disaster. The October Revolution: a new, radical eye to re-construct the world by, as studied by Eisenstein, Pudovkin, etc. Prague '68, prior and after: a youthful, exuberant movement towards a young cinema, growing increasingly bitter and despondent as the tanks came rolling in. The '68 military coup d'etat in Greece: Z. As Yugoslavia disintegrated in the 80's: a new crisis of identity that we best know from Kusturica. The Perestroika in '89: this one, among many others I presume.
Our protagonist is a slovenly man-about-town who just sits in bed or gulps down beer at the local pub as the world around him falls to pieces; did he pick up sloppiness from decades of rigid communist rule, when you couldn't expect to really better yourself, or is it a newfound freedom with the Curtain's fall? He inherits a mysterious fortune, and immediately sets out to arrogantly flaunt himself. And how better to exemplify new bosses with borrowed wealth from abroad in place of the old system now collapsed, than by having him throw out the waiter from his newly acquired five-star hotel? He castigates workers at his brickworks for sitting around. He takes his village friends to a fancy restaurant. Of course they all order ghoulash and beer and are a nuisance to the snotty waiters.
Nothing fundamental has changed, except the illusion of prosperity and who is paying the bill. Hello capitalism.
The thing with Czechs as I have noted in other reviews, is that they lack a distinct cinematic identity. I presume this is only the latest symptom of a long, troubled history between two cultural giants to the east and west. So they appropriate from what better reflects their contemporary woes and usually express in terms of allegory that they keenly know from a tradition in theater.
Here it's Kusturica, a big thing at the time (we have forgotten just how big). The small village and rowdy people. A world helter skelter. At some point, there is a pool outside the shabby village shack and an ostrich running around. There is a merry-go-round with mechanized swans circling behind the trees. An angelic apparition. But it is all posited with a whimsy for the transient world, never really gut-wrenching as we find in Kusturica. Money is fleeting, sex, happiness. It's okay so long as the pub serves beer and slivovich.
So eventually our man is right back where he started. The bill is footed to the lawyer, the money man. This succinctly reflects the recent Eurozone crisis, with governments encouraging reckless spending on borrowed, mismanaged money. Turns out his father was not his real father. Another fortune comes his way, another mysterious patron from abroad to fund 'lost sons'. We can surmise more turmoil ahead.
We best know filmmaker Vera Chytilova from Godard-lite feminist romp Daisies, but this one is the cult film among her countrymates.
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