Spinal Tap Folk Rock and Boho Philosophy in a Czech Series

Cultural introspection is one of the running themes in this year's edition of BAM's New Czech Films series, but a number of selections don't quite make it past the border. Petr Zelenka's Year of the Devil (2002) is an extreme example: A Spinal Tap-like mockumentary acted out by real-life folk-rock stars, it carries too many gags about alcoholism and the Czech music scene that get lost in translation. Ivan Vojnár's beautifully shot, melancholy feature Forest Walkers (2003) takes on a different sort of bohemianism, focusing on a band of philosophizing outsiders who ponder the nature of love and existence while dreaming of leaving the Communist-era republic.

Vera Chytilová's classic madcap-feminist Daisies lurks behind the sassy spirit and design of Benjamin Tucek's Girlie (2003), about the romantic travails of a puckish gamine and her roommate mom, a leggy MILF who could be her older twin. Shot in trippy music-video colors and set to a drony-dreamy pop score, Girlie strives for Almodóvarness (signaled by the appearance of a magazine ad for All About My Mother), but never nails the requisite depth: It's all surface, no tension. Perhaps the surest selection on view is Fimfárum (2001), a kid-friendly collection of animated fairy tales by veteran Aurel Klimt and Vlasta Pospísilová. Cutely grotesque, the hand-hewn puppets move with smooth and sprightly grace, through stories peppered with morbid old-world humor.

 
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