Karel Kachyna Tribute
In the 1960s Karel Kachyna, working closely with the same writer, composer, and cinematographer, made some of the many outstanding films of the Czech New Wave -- films distinguished by expressive new techniques and carefully observed reports on human nature. In the repressive 1970s, with two of his best films seemingly banned forever, Kachyna, his team dispersed, busied himself with children's movies. The two "comeback" films of the 1980s the Pacific Film Archive screens this Sunday suggest that repression took its toll: They have a very different feel to them than his '60s masterpieces. Those films were largely black-and-white, set in the country, and shot through with lyrical grace even in the midst of nightmare -- as Friday's screening of 1966's Carriage to Vienna should demonstrate. By contrast, Sunday's double bill of Love Between the Raindrops (1980) and Death of the Beautiful Roebucks (1986) are brightly colored, hectic farces set in the Prague of the 1930s. While the gags are funny, the pace is too frantic for reflection, and when both films turn dark the results seem unbalanced. Kachyna's fellow '60s survivors Jiri Menzel and Vera Chyrilova made the same move into sex farce in their post-1970s careers; I haven't seen all of their late work, but I think that Kachyna alone has made the jump of depicting the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia as perhaps analogous to the Soviet Union's. The overall mood of Raindrops is a depressed and elegiac nostalgia. The young boy who's our protagonist doesn't seem to learn anything from his travails, however -- Matt Damon could play him, and Robin Williams could hug him in the final scene and tell him, "It's not your fault." 1993's The Cow, screening Friday, marks Kachyna's return to a rural milieu and is said to be excellent.