Projections - Movie Reviews

Up and Down

Natasa Burger, Jiri Machacek, Jan Triska, Emilia Vasaryova,
Petr Forman, Ingrid Timkova and Kristyna Liska-Bokova

Rated: R
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: February 25, 2005 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics

From talented director Jan Hrebejk (Divided We Fall) comes an intriguing social comedy (in Czech with English subtitles) that cleverly interweaves many characters, Up and Down.

Hrebejk, who also helped devise the screenplay, has more than a few unsavory, oafish folks in Czech's entry as Best Foreign Film, losing to Spain's The Sea Inside.

The story is intelligent, similar to last year's Good Bye Lenin, in the struggle to adapt after the fall of Communism. Now, it's well more than a decade later unlike the closer proximity in Lenin.

Two families of different social strata come into focus in what shifts between satire and melodrama with some flair with the connection being a baby left behind in a truck used to smuggle immigrants into the country.

Mila (Natasa Burger) is the wife of a soccer-fanatic security guard husband Frantisek (Jiri Machacek). Mila is desperate to have a child, but Frantisek's dark past and her sterility are hard to overcome. But, one is brought from one of the refugees entering the Czech Republic.

The other branch of the narrative concerns an aging professor Otakar (Jan Triska) who has to undergo serious surgery after collapsing during a lecture. He has planned a reunion dinner with his resentful, estranged wife (Emilia Vasaryova) whom he never divorced and his son (Petr Forman) who's worlds away in Australia. The old man happens to live with the rather young Hana (Ingrid Timkova) and their daughter (Kristyna Liska-Bokova) who'll be surprised about Otakar's marriage.

Up and Down uses class conflict quite well to set up effective characterizations and a penetrating portrayal of the anxiety affected from discordant changes in one's life. The dinner scene proves to be genuinely effective and revealing and racism is confronted. Look for some amusing interplay by Timkova and Vasaryova as their characters jockey to get an edge on one another.

Contemporary Prague is given an interesting facelift from what isn't quarantined anymore. The result may not boost tourist activity, but Hrebejk's buoyant diversity on the screen often succeeds because of the honesty shown as the respectable have to deal with some dirty, bad people who do dirty, bad things.

  Frank Chris Tony Jim Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Up and Down       B+       B+

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