LAST YEAR, NW Film Center hosted an excellent series of Czech films as part of a national tour of contemporary Czech cinema. This week, another touring series, titled Czech That Film, offers a new crop of recent Czech films, and while the selections aren't as strong—there's nothing as loveable as last year's Identity Card or as harrowing as Walking Too Fast—there are still some good things.
Rendered in burnt yellows and smoky grays, In the Shadow is a 1950s police procedural with political undercurrents (spoiler: every Czech movie has political undercurrents). While there isn't a ton of suspense, there's ample mood and intrigue. Director David Ondíek introduces the screening on Thursday, June 6.
Based on a graphic novel trilogy, Alois Nebel is a rotoscoped animated film. The title character is a stationmaster in 1989 who ends up in a mental hospital after flashing back to a violent event from his childhood; once he gets out, the Berlin Wall has fallen and his sheltered world is turned upside down. The black-and-white animation is placid and mesmerizing, even if the story unfolds slowly.
Gypsy is a retelling of Hamlet set in a Slovakian slum populated by Roma. Fourteen-year-old Adam wants to escape the life of poverty and petty thievery set before him; the episodic, lyrical nature of the story works well against the fatalism of the narrative. And Men in Hope is an awkward sex romp about a dopey guy cheating on his crazy-hot wife with a crazy-hot twentysomething dancer. The humor is garish and sexist, and the film is a transparent middle-aged dude's wank fantasy.
Flower Buds, a blue-collar family drama, and The House, another family drama about a Slovakian girl's coming of age, round out the series. With political undercurrents.