Friday, March 26, 2010

"Shameless" - Movie Review

On Wednesday, March 24, 2010, my movie class showed "Shameless", a romantic comedy from Czechoslovakia. 


When a married couple divorce after seven years of marriage, will they ever be able to find love again after years of being out of the dating pool?


Oskar, a TV weatherman, has grown so tired of Zuzuna, his wife of seven years, that he has begun a clandestine affair with their young, pretty au pair, who cares for their son, JakubOskar finds her youthful exuberance and sexual kinkiness (she indulges his golden shower fantasies) just as exciting as he finds Zuzuna's super-sized proboscis unappealing.  When she learns of his infidelities, however, she expels him from their home.  Shortly after moving into a tiny, spare studio apartment, he learns that he has lost his lucrative job and is forced to take employment in a lesser paying field. 

Zuzuna, suddenly forced to raise Jakub alone while working as a host of a local radio program, struggles with feelings about her unappealing looks, until she meets a man while taking her son to a nearby playground.  Spending an increasing amount of time together, she is delighted to learn that he finds her genuinely attractive and they develop a genuine fondness for each other.  Meanwhile, Oskar finds that it's increasingly difficult to put up with the au pair's immaturity in exchange for their brief sexual encounters.  At this point, he meets Nora, a singer of great renown, who is his senior by a quarter of a century.  Leaping into bed almost immediately, they enjoy a romance that seems to ignore their vast age difference.  It is only when the paparazzi start reporting on their love affair in a derisive way that Nora becomes embarrassed by it and with the death of her ex-husband, she uses the opportunity to finally break up with Oskar.

By now, Oskar is trying to make ends meet by hiring himself out as something of a designated driver to people who need a lift after partying the night away at a bar.  One such assignment finds him meeting his client at a brothel, where he discovers that he knows one of the young girls who works there -- a former student of his back in the day when he was a high school teacher.  As he and Zuzuna spend more time apart, each grows more envious of the other's perceived advantage.


Every so often in my movie class, there comes along a foreign film that you find to be an obscure little gem that you feel lucky to have discovered.  Unfortunately, "Shameless" is no such movie.  Based on a book of the same name, it is rather meandering and its end does not give you a feeling that anything in the story has been resolved; you get a sense that the scenes in this movie were arranged rather randomly and an arbitrary reordering of their sequence would have had no noticeable effect.  This isn't particularly hard to imagine when you keep in mind that the book on which it was based was itself not a novel, but rather, a collection of short stories.

From a technical standpoint, the movie was a challenge to watch because of the fact that the subtitles were difficult to read; they were in white and did not have any kind of a shadowed outline to them, so when they were up against a whitish background, you wound up losing much of the dialog -- rather frustrating, to say the least, as parts of this movie did appear to be funny.  Also lost on the American audience is a lot of inside jokes and cameo appearances by a number of Czechoslovakian celebrities. 

The post - screening interview was with the movie's director, who had to speak through a translator.  He acknowledged that film-making in his country was an extremely different experience than in the United States because it is not as big a business.  For example, in his home land, directors general get final cut on their movies; by contrast, United States directors rarely get that privilege, unless they have shown by their track record that they have earned it.  Try as I might to find a film clip that contained English subtitles, I was unsuccessful; so, despite the fact that you'll have to speak Czech in order to understand it, I'll include the trailer anyway.