Thursday, April 4, 2013

Case for a Rookie Hangman (1969)

Case for a Rookie Hangman • Případ pro začínajícího kata (1969)
Case for a Rookie Hangman • Případ pro začínajícího kata (1969)
Czech New Wave
Genre: Drama • Comedy
Director: Pavel Juráček
Starring: Lubomír Kostelka
Language: Czech
Duration: 102 min.
Rating: 7.7
Summary:
A surrealistic satire loosely based on the third book of Gulliver's Travels.
Case for a Rookie Hangman is a film from the Czechoslovak New Wave directed by Pavel Juráček. A modern adaptation based very loosely on the third book of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Perhaps best known for his screenwriting contributions, (among them a co-writing credit on Věra Chytilová's Daisies), this was Juráček's second and final feature film as a director. It was banned by the government shortly after completion and resulted in him being blacklisted from the Czechoslovak film industry. Sadly, he passed away a few short months before the end of Communist rule in 1989, never getting the chance to work again.

Case for a Rookie Hangman • Případ pro začínajícího kata (1969)

This film, much like his previous efforts: the short film Joseph Kilian (1965), and his debut feature Every Young Man (1966); is a sly Kafkaesque satire full of nonsensical surreal situations that not only pokes fun at the oppressive climate of the time, but also manages to display a timeless relevance in its themes. Lubomír Kostelka stars as the famed Lemuel Gulliver, who we follow in his absurd misadventures and encounters with strange characters in the town of Balnibarbi and the floating kingdom of Laputa.

Very light on plot but thick in atmosphere, Juráček weaves a fantastic dreamlike narrative, using some sleek camera work, inventive editing, and a greater display of stunt-work and special effects than typically seen in 1960's Czechoslovak cinema. It's a quickly paced film organized in titled chapters, sometimes a little too quick to follow if you are reading the subtitles, because there are many subtle complexities in the dialog and images that are impossible to absorb entirely in one viewing.

Case for a Rookie Hangman • Případ pro začínajícího kata (1969)

Throughout the confusion, there are moments of dread where the airy dream turns into a recurring nightmare, as Gulliver is haunted again and again by appearances from a dead lover (Klára Jerneková), and a well-dressed Carrollian rabbit. But it's also immensely funny at times, with its oddball characters, visual gags, and general sarcastic tone aimed at the futility of totalitarian control.

Viewers expecting a conventional story or a faithful adaptation should probably stay away from this one, but those who enjoy being a passenger on a bewildering and unpredictable experimental journey will surely find this a rewarding experience. What a terrible shame and loss for us all that Juráček's career ended here.
Bonjour Tristesse
Case for a Rookie Hangman • Případ pro začínajícího kata (1969)

Case for a Rookie Hangman • Případ pro začínajícího kata (1969)

Case for a Rookie Hangman • Případ pro začínajícího kata (1969)

Case for a Rookie Hangman • Případ pro začínajícího kata (1969)

Case for a Rookie Hangman • Případ pro začínajícího kata (1969)

Case for a Rookie Hangman • Případ pro začínajícího kata (1969)

Case for a Rookie Hangman • Případ pro začínajícího kata (1969)

Case for a Rookie Hangman • Případ pro začínajícího kata (1969)

7 comments:

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Would this be experimental in the same vein as "Holy Motors"? If so, it may not be for me. But it still sounds intriguing. Great review

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I don't really now what to expect, but it sounds fun enough, I'm putting it on the list.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Looks stunning! I'll put it on my ever growing list of Czech New Wave to catch up!

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I would have to say yes. There is the same kind of surreal atmosphere and blurred boundaries of fantasy and reality.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

The photography looks wonderful! As I'm quite amused by Holy Motors, I might give this one a try. I don't mind a surrealist film once in a while to break things up. Btw, I LOVE the layout of your reviews, Bonjour. It's clear which country it's from, the rating, running time, etc. It's just very easy to browse and VERY easy on the eye, too! :D

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Thank you Ruth! I'm glad you find the layout and design easy to follow and pleasing to the eye. It's something that I constantly work on with those goals in mind.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yeah, this is a title I am sure you will appreciate.

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