Thursday, August 11, 2005

Up and Down

Prague may be the trendiest city in eastern Europe, but after seeing "Up and Down" you might want to go to Belgrade or Warsaw instead. The Prague of "Up and Down" is a much nastier place than the nostalgic Prague of director, Jan Hrebejk’s previous films "Cosy Dens" and "Divided We Fall". The main theme this time is racial prejudice. The Czech’s fear the gipsies and both groups are fearful of the new immigrants from further east in Europe and from Asia. Tourists are there to be stolen from and Prague is divided into unofficial racial zones of control.
There is no plot or story in the traditional sense, rather a series of episodes featuring three sets of characters. A football hooligan and his infertile child-mad wife, a sick professor and his broken and far flung family and a gang of criminals. Each set has its own episodes and acts as bystanders in the other episodes.
Ironically Franta, the man who names his cat after his favourite soccer player and cannot adopt a child because of a conviction for hooliganism, is the most sympathetic character, mostly because of his intense loyalty (to his baby stealing wife, his football club, his mates and his job as a security guard). The professor is a more fickle character with a son in Australia, a bitter estranged wife and a younger lover and daughter at home. This leads to host of family secrets and conflicts, that drive most of their episodes. On the other hand we don’t really get to know the criminals as individuals, they just play their part.
Despite the nastiness, the confusing plot lines and host of characters this is a funny film, with lots of set pieces exploring immigration from the point of view of the "natives", the recent immigrants, the not so recent immigrants, those who have left and come back and those passing through.
Ian’s rating 4/5
Anne’s rating 3.5/5

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