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Monday, June 10, 2013

Blogging the Hulu Plus Criterion Collection: All My Good Countrymen

All My Good Countrymen

This one is another pleasant discovery. I knew a little bit about the Prague Spring of the 1960s. That's where Milos Foreman got his start but Id never seen many of the films associated with the movement. All My Good Countrymen was a hell of an introduction. This was a seven layer cake of good story and fantastic filmmaking. The director Vojtech Jasny pulls out all the stops. This script has some amazing camerawork but it's all in the service of a strong story.

There isn't a lot of info on this movie. I had to hunt to get the few images I could. There are none on IMDB and none on Google. Which is a shame. This is a movie that deserves to be recognized and celebrated.

The story follows life in a Czech village after the Second World War. A group of seven friends have survived the Nazis and look forward to a new life. But soon life under the Soviet system turns out to be just as oppressive. Three of the friends join the party and begin to rule the village with an iron fist. There are many twists and turns but in the end there's nothing left but bitterness and disappointment. Obviously this was going to be condemned by the Soviets. It's hard to believe the Prague Spring lasted as long as it did if they were turning out material this incendiary.

The movie has some amazing sequences. The opening celebration is a riot of movement. Two young lovers dance. The camera spins around with them.

Later drunken friends sleep under a tree. The next morning they head back home with the rising sun behind them.

But there is also a lot of humor and warmth. In the opening a church chorus sings a beautiful hymn that's full of Marxist ideas. Later two young boys pick up some discarded pistols and have a dangerous but hilarious good time. The movie is nearly a half century old but it still feels new. There's a scene where one of the characters deliberately gives himself an infected foot (perhaps to avoid jail time, it's not made clear.) But he's gone to far and the infection kills him. As he dies he tries to find his pet goose. He's surrounded in goose feathers as he collapses. The stock is very washed out. It reminded me of a music video I saw not to long ago that used the same technique.

This is obviously a great film for directors to study. It's filled with amazing shots and sequences. It's as visually vibrant as ever. As a story it's a little too episodic. But it never loses sight of the human cost. Characters struggle, fail, and die. In the end as one character says, "It's only us bastards who are left." The ending is quietly powerful and stayed with me.

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