Monday, June 25, 2012

Depicting the Wanton

Eclipse’s latest set ingeniously collects ten films – five shorts and five features – by five directors at the forefront of the retroactively titled “Czech New Wave.” Pretty much every film presented here was eventually banned by the Soviet overlords who micromanaged the Czechoslovakian culture following the Warsaw Pact.

According to the set’s liner notes (by Michael Koresky), among the Soviet system’s artistic tenets were the decrees that “art should be easy to understand and that narratives of struggle and sacrifice should lead to uplifting endings.” By these standards, the best films in the set aren’t just unsanctioned art, they’re Molotov cocktails whipped at the monolithic establishment.

The set begins with the anthology film PEARLS OF THE DEEP (1966) which collects five films based on the work of Czech author Bohumil Hrabal.  Each of the short films represents an auteurist aperitif for one of the five features included in the rest of the set. For this reason, I’m going to approach the set by director, rather than by film.