Hyper-Real, Crass Czech Gusto

The Czech New Wave continues to belch up unseen wonders, the latest of which for us is this 1972 Jaromil Jires lament, based on the prison diaries of Maruska Kuderikova, a Moravian girl who worked with the Czech resistance and was eventually caught, jailed, and executed by the Nazis. Her story is thick with ironies—a single shot of drunken Nazis teasing a leashed fox speaks volumes—but never as much as when the 22-year-old must beg to have her ashes delivered to her family, or when she works through her 99-day sentence by painting eyes on tin soldiers. Ricocheting from The Joke's anti-totalitarian satire to the loopy Grimm-ness of Valerie and Her Week of Wonders to this howl of injustice, Jires nevertheless maintains a distinctive style— fragmented, impressionistic, de-dramatized, stuffed with crass Czech gusto, but always hyper-real and soaked in '70s weather. (Jan Curik's long-lensed cinematography is a pre-digital achievement in desaturated grays, greens, and taupes.) As Kuderikova, Magda V lets her big, stunned eyes do the talking. No extras.

 
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