Closely Watched DVDs

A guide to Czech cinema on DVD

Criterion on Czechoslovakia

Filed under: Article Links — Michael at 12:09 am on Sunday, July 30, 2006

Surprisingly, considering the company has released relatively few Czech films, the Criterion website has a huge amount of background information about the Czech New Wave, starting with this introduction, and going on to feature:

Alongside these pieces, the Criterion site also features hefty essays on its four Czech titles:

Aaaargh! My eyes!

Filed under: General, Article Links — Michael at 10:50 am on Friday, July 21, 2006

Sorry about that - just getting over the truly eye-wateringly hideous colour scheme of this website. I suspect the reason it hasn’t been updated since 1999 is because its creator went blind shortly afterwards (or was driven mad by the accompanying pop-ups - if your browser offers that option, I recommend switching them off).

Presentation issues aside, though, there’s an almost book-length amount of information here about Czech cinema in general and the Sixties New Wave in particular, with articles and quotations from many leading historians and filmmakers.

The Death of Mr Lazarescu

Filed under: Article Links — Michael at 10:14 am on Thursday, July 20, 2006

Nothing to do with Czech cinema, I’m afraid, but those interested in Eastern European cinema in general might enjoy my Sight & Sound review of Cristi Puiu’s appallingly vivid journey through the hellish circles of the Romanian healthcare system, The Death of Mr Lazarescu (Moartea domnului Lăzărescu).

It’s easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year, though I think the various posters (US, Romanian) are slightly overstressing the comedy - it’s there, but the film as a whole isn’t exactly what you might call a laugh riot.

Against the Grain

Filed under: Article Links — Michael at 8:27 am on Sunday, July 16, 2006

My DVD review of Jiří Menzel’s My Sweet Little Village should be up later today, but in the meantime here’s an article from MovieMaker magazine (no.43, Summer 2001) in which Radovan Holub explores the dilemma faced by Czech filmmakers who want to connect with the domestic box office, and also offers a convincing explanation as to why so few achieve international distribution even if they’re popular at home:

Czech feature films remain introverted, slow-moving and unpretentious. The situation is akin to that of traditional European cinema: Czech moviemakers want to offer viewers enough time and space for contemplation of their own problems. Domestic audiences like films with well-worn themes. For Czech audiences, the most exciting kind of hero is the one who could easily be living right next door to them: everyday people in everyday situations tempt the Czech moviegoing public.

Czech films can be said to go against the grain of the mainstream Western cinema, which attempts to dazzle audiences with spectacular effects at almost any cost and as soon as possible. Instead, these films choose to involve the viewer on an emotional level. Yet, in creating such films - ones that will make the Czech audience nod in agreement and familiarity - Czech directors have alienated the global audience. Financing for Czech films is difficult to come by, and Czech moviemakers who find distribution at the international level are few.

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