sabato 24 luglio 2021

Postava k podpírání (Joseph Kilián) - Pavel Jurácek, Jan Schmidt

girato a Praga, ispirato a Kafka, Josef K. deve restituire qualcosa (o qualcuno) preso a noleggio da un negozio che non esiste più.

uffici, moduli, timbro, file, attese, atmosfere proprio kafkiane.

vedere, per credere, questo piccolo bel film - Ismaele



QUI il film completo (sottotitoli in inglese)



It's a sombre Kafkaesque tale about a nameless man who happens upon a cat rental agency while wandering the streets of Prague searching for someone named Joseph Kilian.  Of course the next day when he goes to return his rented feline, he finds the shop is no longer where it was and none of the passers by can provide any help; and so he encounters an increasingly complex and impossible bureaucracy in his search for this missing shop and the elusive Joseph Kilian.

With a beautiful minimalistic style, Jurácek and Schmidt create a concise and absurdly humorous, biting allegory of life under the communist regime.  Hilarious scenes of the main character hopelessly lost in a confusing and meandering system of officials and departments provide much amusement, and makes you truly wonder how a film with such a politically critical message was allowed to be made under those conditions. 

A wonderfully clever, surreal, and gloomy yet enjoyable tale, perfect for cat lovers and fans of Eastern European cinema.

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the comparisons with Kafka immediately stand out, and the author’s name is so often evoked that it has become a cliche to do so. People toss around the term “Kafkaesque” to describe almost anything a little bit dark and weird these days. It’s like when people use the term “Catch-22” without fully grasping what that means, and you can be bloody sure they haven’t read the book. Could I say that the term has become so over-used that I’ve decided to write the whole review without mentioning the writer’s name or the adjective derived from it? It’s a bit weak, I think, but it’s all I’ve got right now. So let’s give it a whirl:

At first glance, Juráček & Schmidt’s mischievous short film invites comparisons with a certain famous Prague writer, right down to the initials of the title character. Yet, while there is an obvious debt of gratitude to the totemic novelist whose intense face can be found on a thousand Prague gift shop mugs, the film feels more like a confluence of influences, from Escher to Samuel Beckett.

Our protagonist is Jan Herold (Karel Vašíček), a man wandering the streets of Prague looking for comrade Kilian. He is met with confused looks whenever he asks people if they have seen him, as no-one seems to have heard of the guy. As he continues his search he stumbles upon a Cat Rental shop (yes, you read that right) and decides that he may as well rent a cat.

He carries on looking for the mysterious Kilian, carrying the cat in a bag. When the time comes to return the cat, the shop is no longer there. What’s more, the building looks like it has been unoccupied for many years, and passersby can’t recall ever seeing a cat rental place in the vicinity. So, with the cat now potentially incurring late fees, Herold continues his search for the eponymous character…

Herold’s meanders through a strange somnambulistic atmosphere, a little like Herk Harvey’s eerie Carnival of Souls. While the premise of a cat rental shop is absurd, this idea lulls you into a false sense of security. The smile it raises is smothered by the disquieting ambience of the half-empty Prague streets, populated by people caught in a trancelike state who don’t really remember anything or recognise anyone.

The directors use bold editing techniques to emphasise the sense of dislocation and unease. They use jarring match-cuts to show Herold in one place then suddenly appearing in another, sometimes chopping our protagonist through several scenes in a matter of seconds. They also tinker with aggressive cuts that made me think my copy was faulty before I realised it was intentional, and also a bit of forward-and-reverse motion tomfoolery with little effect. 

These editing choices creates a disorienting environment where people and places vanish and citizens are trapped in strange Escher-like time loops. A dusty passageway is filled with placards bearing Communist slogans that hint at the fate that has befallen the city. It is a place where people have become unmoored from time and space.

Both directors would make feature-length films, with Juráček contributing a key title of the New Wave, Case for A Rookie HangmanJoseph Kilian was their debut effort, and it shows. It is beautifully shot and features some striking imagery but its sense of strangeness and foreboding quickly evaporates once it is over. It is like a movie put together by two precocious magpies with clear filmmaking talent, but haven’t developed their ideas enough to make them stick. It’s all surface flash without much to underpin it, making the film feel as fleeting and transient as the protagonist.

At this point, I realise that the idea of not mentioning Kafka by name is a bit of a non-starter. I only really needed to refer to him in the first paragraph, and straight away I was relieved – there are only so many ways of not referring to someone by name. If I had to carry on, I could see myself dipping into the Wikipedia article on the novelist and pulling out facts to use in place of his name – the prolific writer whose works were posthumously saved by his good friend Max Brod; Prague’s second-most legendary Jewish resident after Rabbi Loew; and so on.

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