Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Most Beautiful Age (1968)

The Most Beautiful Age • Nejkrásnější věk (1968)
The Most Beautiful Age • Nejkrásnější věk (1968)
Czech New Wave
Genre: Comedy
Director: Jaroslav Papoušek
Starring:  Hana Brejchová, Jan Stöckl, Josef Šebánek, Milada Ježková, Vladimír Šmeral, Jiří Sýkora, Ladislav Jakim, Věra Křesadlová
Language: Czech
Duration: 80 min.
Rating: 7.5
Summary:
A humorous look at the lives of people from different generations hired to model for a sculpting class.
The Most Beautiful Age (sometimes translated as The Best Age), is a film from the Czechoslovak New Wave, written and directed by Jaroslav Papoušek. This was Papoušek's first directorial effort, having previously been a key collaborator on the groundbreaking films by his good friends Miloš Forman and Ivan Passer.

The film brings together many of the now familiar faces, amateurs turned actors, who made their first appearances in those previous films: Hana Brejchová (Loves of a Blonde); Věra Křesadlová (Talent Competition, Intimate Lighting); Milada Ježková, Josef Šebánek, and Josef Kolb (Loves of a Blonde, The Firemen's Ball); Ladislav Jakim (Talent Competition, Black Peter); and Jan Stöckl (The Firemen’s Ball).

The Most Beautiful Age • Nejkrásnější věk (1968)

It takes place primarily in the sculpting studio of a fine-arts academy, (a setting likely chosen because Papoušek originally studied sculpting before entering filmmaking), and depicts a scenario in the same signature freewheeling observational style of the previously mentioned films. Where a tricky balance is maintained between non acted realism and scripted drama, and the focus freely shifts from one character to the next.

All of the pieces are in place: the simple setting, the unconventional narrative, and a variety of characters from all walks of life; however, watching it did not evoke quite the same wondrous spirit as when seeing Forman's Loves of a Blonde, or Passer's Intimate Lighting, for the first time. This time, the result and the performances lean towards that of watching an acting troupe instead of the natural almost documentary feel that those other films managed to depict so well, and it's more of a philosophical piece without much of an overt social or political bite. Still, there is plenty of amusement and wonder to be found here.

The central theme of the picture is an ongoing argument about 'what age is the best age in life?', and this is examined through the sometimes comical, sometimes poignant interactions between the art students and the three very different life models hired to pose for them. Hanzlík, an amicable narcoleptic grandfather (Jan Stöckl, who played the retiring chief from The Firemen's Ball); Vránová, a young stay-at-home mom who fears that she is squandering the prime of her life, agreeing to pose nude despite the objections of her highly jealous husband (Hana Brejchová, the titular blonde from Loves of a Blonde); and then there is Vosta, a middle aged charcoal burner who suffers from a serious head injury (Josef Šebánek, who appeared in both Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball, and would go on to star in Papoušek's later Holmolka Family trilogy).

The Most Beautiful Age • Nejkrásnější věk (1968)

It can be argued that this film was a signal of the coming end of the Czech New Wave, as it is the last true example of the distinct cinematic style we picture in our minds when thinking about this era. Both Forman and Passer would soon flee for America and go on to enjoy careers with vastly different degrees of future success, while Papoušek would remain behind and become known for his 1970's trilogy about a privileged Communist family.

So it's fitting that Papoušek assembled a reunion of sorts of all those actors for one last hurrah. Even if the magic isn't quite there, it manages to put a smile on your face and today serves as a reminder and a nod of respect to the pioneers of that brief and unforgettable golden age of Czechoslovak cinema.
Bonjour Tristesse
The Most Beautiful Age • Nejkrásnější věk (1968)

The Most Beautiful Age • Nejkrásnější věk (1968)

The Most Beautiful Age • Nejkrásnější věk (1968)

The Most Beautiful Age • Nejkrásnější věk (1968)

The Most Beautiful Age • Nejkrásnější věk (1968)

The Most Beautiful Age • Nejkrásnější věk (1968)

The Most Beautiful Age • Nejkrásnější věk (1968)

The Most Beautiful Age • Nejkrásnější věk (1968)

6 comments:

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Ohhhh... this looks RIGHT up my alley. ha ha ha ha - a bunch a Czech new Wave greats discussing philosophically which age is the best while making art? Did I write this film?
A great review as usual BT. You've suckered me in... I'm hot on the trail of this one. And those images are gorgeous.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I think if I had been following the Czech New Wave right when you were, I would be well ready for this one. It actually doesn't sound bad at all, I just think I'll appreciate it more after a few others. I mean, I haven't even seen Loves of a Blonde yet.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Haha, I actually thought about that while watching this, 'This would be the perfect film for Lisa'.

I'm sure you'll let me know when you manage to track it down.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I highly recommend seeing any and all of the films mentioned above. Most of them would be of musical interest to you as well.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I have to say this film looks pretty fascinating. There's something about the images that really attracts me. Great review, I am going to have to look this one up.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

So many of the Czech New Wave films have this kind of beauty. Be careful, once you get started there is no stopping.

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