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Pearls of the Deep

Posted by martinteller on December 28, 2012

Although there is a unifying theme — the stories of author Bohumil Hrabal — I prefer to review portmanteau films as if they were a series of shorts rather than trying to take it in as a whole.

“Mr. Baltazar’s Death” (Jiri Menzel) – Some folks gather to watch a motorcycle race, and regale each other with morbid anecdotes.  Although there are a few amusing bits, I had quite a hard time getting into this.  I’m hoping that it’s not just a case of me not being in the right mood.  It feels like Menzel is trying out a few ideas, none of which really pays off that well.  He was still a student when he made this, and it shows.  60

“The Impostors” (Jan Nemec) – Two old men in a hospital chat about their past glories as a journalist and an opera singer.  The end has a little twist.  This is a slight improvement over the first.  Nothing too great, but nothing about it bothered me, and Nemec has a fine way of capturing faces.  I wondered if this was meant as a thumbing of the nose to the old guard.  73

“The House of Joy” (Evald Schorm) – Two insurance salesmen visit an eccentric painter and his mother.  The only segment in color, it feels lively and vibrant.  But it also is a bit tedious at the same time.  Perhaps it would resonate more with someone more attuned to some of the metaphors in the artwork.  Schorm’s style is occasionally a little too playful, although the highlight is a sped-up flashback involving a sheet metal Christ on the cross and a car accident.  69

“The Restaurant the World” (Vera Chytilova) – Chytilova fully embraces the surrealism that Schorm and Nemec flirted with in this enigmatic story involving a diner, a wedding, a suicide and a factory worker.  The story resists interpretation, at least at first glance, but strikes a chord with its poetic tones and intriguing characters.  The photography is stunning, and the film offers up a healthy handful of beautiful images.  I don’t know what it all means, but I loved soaking it in.  84

“Romance” (Jaromil Jires) – A budding romance between a Czech boy and a Gypsy girl.  The film is quite pleasant with nice performances between the two leads.  There’s some ambiguity in that we’re never quite sure how sincere either one of them is.  Jires plays on the cultural clash, especially in the witty final series of cuts, suggesting it’s the Gypsies who will always have the last laugh.  78

It gets off to a rocky start, but overall I feel it’s worth watching for the other segments, especially the last two.  The individual segments probably deserve a much deeper reading than I’ve given them here.  I sensed some political allegories that were eluding me (often the case with Eastern European films).  Looking forward to the three other films in this set that I haven’t seen yet.  Rating: Good (73)


One Response to “Pearls of the Deep”

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