14 THE LIST 95211)
Prague might have been hijacked by Hollywood filmmakers, but Czech cinema might just be David to America’s Goliath. Words: Miles Fielder
few miles outside Prague. Great lathes
bolted to the concrete floor beneath a glass- domed ceiling reek of grease. This shop used to provide spare parts for Czech airforce warplanes. Prior to that. it provided spare parts for Russian warplanes. And years before that. it provided parts to the German military. Now. however. just two workers spiral razor-sharp metal bur off the machinery. The warplane factory has gone into receivership. It‘s almost poignant.
Tomas Krejci. owner of Prague production outfit Milk & Honey Films. isn't feeling sad. though. He‘s elated. Milk & Honey has bought the factory and is redeveloping it into a state of the art film studio. digital facilities and all. From creating machines of mass destruction to flights of cinematic fantasy: Krejci has got every right to be happy.
Prague Studios came about
I, in standing in an engineering workshop a
because Milk & Honey was ‘CZech cinema
having problems securing
studio space for its local and has always
past 7() years through films made there or inspired by the place. Among the many highlights are Buttaners. a surreal satire about the H-bomb. the aforementioned Kalya. and a retrospective of the work of Vera Chytilova. who helped define the Czech new wave with films such as Daisies and The Fruit (Ifl’arralise.
In Prague. 1 meet Chytilova in a restaurant in Mala Strana. a district of winding streets sitting snug beneath the city’s enormous castle where the grandfather of Czech cinema. Milos Forrnan. filmed Amadeus. Chytilova. small. bird-like though an absolutely no-nonsense woman. still makes films: her 1998 feminist black comedy. Traps. plays the festival. She also teaches at Prague‘s film school. ‘Today young filmmakers want fame.‘ she says. For C hytilova. many of the latest wave of Czech films aren‘t about anything. Anything important. that is. Chytilova doesn‘t criticise the filmmaking talent. it‘s just that after the 1989 overthrow
international productions. of the oppressive communist
Barrandov. Prague‘s other
studio is overrun with US sum Of
regime. they have nothing to react against. ‘Cinema has a
productions. Shanghai Knights. purpose.‘ she says.
Jackie Chan‘s martial arts parts!
westem. is filming the day I get
a tour of the sprawling
complex. Among the many other films that have made use of Barrandov‘s facilities are: Blade II. The Butane Identity. Han 's War. The Affair ()fThe Ner'klar'e. Hum Hell and A Knight 's 'lale.
Prague is the cost-effective option for Hollywood. and a place that also provides experienced technicians and handsome locations. Which is why a submarine (appearing in the Vin Diesel/Samuel L Jackson thriller XXX. also filming at Prague Studios) was recently seen motoring up the River Vltava to the Charles Bridge (where the opening to Mission: Impossible was filmed).
All of this is ironic. because foreign film production overshadows the Czech Republic’s own rich cinematic history. From the slapstick comedies of the 30s to the politically-charged new wave of the ()()s to post-velvet revolution successes such as the Oscar-winning Kolya. Czech cinema has always been more than the sum of the small republic‘s parts. And Prague has remained the centre of Czech filmmaking activity.
Appropriate. then. that a UK celebration of Czech cinema should focus on the republic's impossibly picturesque city. The Staropramen Prague On Film Festival looks at the city over the
free beer 8i hostile tekets
We have 10 pairs of tickets to the highly original black comedy Buttoners (18) which is showing at the GFT on Friday 17 May at 7pm. We also have 10 cases of Staropramen to throw in as well. Staropramen is an authentic premium lager of unrivalled quality which is brewed in Prague. Meaning ‘old spring'. Staropramen has been Prague's favourite beer since 1869. To enter, just tell us: Where is Staropramen brewed? Answers on an email marked ‘FILM' to firstname.lastname@example.org or on a postcard to The List, 14 High St. Edinburgh. EH1 1TE. Deadline for
S p R N entries is 14 May 2002. Please include a daytime telephone number. TERMS 8 CONDITIONS Offer open to those 18 years and over liiere is no cash alternative
This makes me think of
Dark Blue World. a
forthcoming Czech/UK co-
production directed by Jan Sverak (who scooped
the ()scar in 1997 for Kalva). It‘s the story of
Czech pilots who. during World War ll. came to
Britain to fly with the RAF. ()n returning home
after the war. rather than being hailed as heroes.
they were imprisoned by the communist
govemment. The film cuts between wartime and
prison time. but the focus is on the former. and action and romance Hollywood—style.
So. it‘s back to l-lollywood. ()r not. The Staropramen Prague On Film Festival makes for a great primer in Czech cinema. Along with Chytilova's history lessons and films such as 1931's l’mviler zllld l’etml. a musical comedy inspired by dadaism. jazz and Buster Keaton. there are fine examples of contemporary Czech film: David ()ndricek’s absurdist tragi—comedy Ixmers‘. for example.
The Czech film industry may make its money from Hollywood. but for quality and diversity of cinema you need to check home-grown films from the republic.
The Staropramen Prague On Film Festival begins The 30 Apr at Filmhouse, Edinburgh and also plays GFT, Glasgow. See Film index.
GFT 12 Rose St, Glasgow 0141 332 8128