If BAM’s miniseries of out-of-the-gate national work is any measure, Czech cinema is still worshiping and homaging its 35-year-old co-Slovakian New Wave—as well it might. What’s lovely is how little Hollywood seems to matter; Miloš Forman, Jan Nêmec, and Ivan Passer are still the guiding spirits. So Alice Nellis’s Eeny Meeny (Ene Bene) is virtually a thumbnail sample of Forman’s Fireman’s Ball, with the social satire lightened to a bouncy trill, and its casual naturalism so scrupulous that nothing of consequence happens much of the time. That’s half the comic point, since Nellis is looking at a small-town election day—staffed mostly by local housewives, who occupy themselves by gossiping, drinking, and occasionally launching into a boogie—in a burg so complacent nobody seems to show up to vote. Jan Hrebejk’s Cozy Dens (Pelišky), detailing the confrontations of two politically opposed families living together days before the 1968 Soviet invasion, has a wild spontaneity fit for the era and a combustive sense of absurdity. (Both have charming performances by veteran hawk-faced actress Eva Holubová.)
The anxieties and unspoken requirements of family are a common thread. Matej Minác’s All My Loved Ones (Všichni Moji Blizci), which depicts the filmmaker’s own salvation as a child from the Nazis by Brit humanitarian Nicholas Winton, trundles through its soap operatics in leaden shoes. Better is Saša Gedeon’s Dostoyevsky variation, Návrit Idiota (The Return of the Idiot), a superbly visualized essay on familial meltdowns that has its naive hero return home from the nuthouse and walk right into a repressive clan firefight. Most scathing is Vladimir Michálek’s Sekal Must Die (Je Treba Zabit Sekala), a WW II-era bucolic noir in which Kieslowski vet Boguslaw Linda plays a reviled village bastard who betrays and blackmails the townspeople with his Nazi alliances until they resolve to put the shitheel down. Lifeboat ethics are never simple, however; if you want convenient answers, remake it in Santa Monica.