Sunday, June 16, 2013

Birds, Orphans and Fools (1969)

Birds, Orphans and Fools • Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni (1969)
Birds, Orphans and Fools • Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni (1969)
Czech New Wave
Genre: Comedy Fantasy Drama
Director: Juraj Jakubisko
Starring:  Philippe Avron, Magda Vášáryová, Jiří Sýkora
Language: Slovak
Duration: 78 min.
Rating: 8.1
Summary:
Three adult orphans attempt to cope with the cruel and vicious world by adopting a childlike philosophy of foolishness and joy.
Birds, Orphans and Fools is a film from the Czechoslovak New Wave, directed by Slovak filmmaker Juraj Jakubisko, who co-wrote it with Czech rabbi and playwright Karol Sidon. It was the second of three collaborations from the pair, and like many other films from this era, it was banned shortly after its release by the Soviet regime, remaining largely unseen until 1990.

Carrying on with the frantic energy and telltale poetic style he first exhibited in his debut The Crucial Years (1967), Jakubisko creates something of a mix between Chytilová's Daisies and Truffaut's Jules and Jim carried by his own distinct and enjoyable cinematic flair. It's a dark yet still quite humorous vision that continuously flirts with the absurd while maintaining a firm attachment to reality.

Birds, Orphans and Fools • Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni (1969)

The film is set in Slovakia and follows the frolicking relationship between three adult orphans: Yorick (Jiří Sýkora) a young man who acts as a fool in order to remain ignorant of the evils of the world; Marta (Magda Vášáryová, the beautiful star of Frantisek Vlácil's Marketa Lazarová, sporting a Jean Seberg-like pixie crop for most of the film), a young Jewish woman who Yorick takes in and nurses back to health; and Andrej (Phillipe Avron), Yorick's best friend, a photographer who also happens to be a virgin.

The trio live together in what seems to be an abandoned and bombed out church, adjacent to a home for orphaned children. A strange dwelling with more openings than walls, and as a result, they begrudgingly share it with a variety of random birds who appear in almost every scene, occupying every corner, counter, and cupboard. It's a sort of madhouse within a madhouse within a madhouse which serves as the primary setting for this comic-tragic tale (not really a spoiler since the director himself reveals within the first minute via a child's voiceover, spoken over a brilliantly self aware montage introductory sequence that 'This story has a tragic ending. But laugh if you feel like it, as our heroes do until the very last moment.')

Birds, Orphans and Fools • Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni (1969)

Indeed, watching it only for the story would be a disappointment, as its a very straightforward and simple tale that ends like how every other triangle ends. However, Jakubisko fills the moments in between the beginning happiness and final despair with numerous wonderfully chaotic scenes full of awareness and insight, playfulness and dread. You can tell he was enjoying his last chance of unbridled freedom and creativity (it was filmed just after the Soviet invasion in 1968) to the absolute fullest. For instance, the turning point in the story involves the characters creating a bonfire with piles of 35mm film, which they then proceed to urinate on. What a way to acknowledge and accept the impending death by decree of the new wave.

Beyond that, there are many other equally memorable sequences and references to be found in this film, many of which I've probably missed the first time through, and others which are probably best left to be discovered on your own. Those unfamiliar with the times may want to start somewhere else, but for fans of this extraordinary era, it's another piece of essential viewing.
Bonjour Tristesse
Birds, Orphans and Fools • Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni (1969)

Birds, Orphans and Fools • Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni (1969)

Birds, Orphans and Fools • Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni (1969)

Birds, Orphans and Fools • Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni (1969)

Birds, Orphans and Fools • Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni (1969)

Birds, Orphans and Fools • Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni (1969)

Birds, Orphans and Fools • Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni (1969)

Birds, Orphans and Fools • Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni (1969)

1 comment:

Bonjour Tristesse said...

It sounds... and looks really interesting. I can already predict a few things, but I'm looking forward to this. Just interaction between the three should be interesting enough.

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