3 Věra Chytilová’s Czech Films to Watch Right Now and Reflect On During the Crisis in Ukraine

“Daisies”, 1969 surrealist art-house comedy by Věra Chytilová

There’s a lot to think about right now. It’s surrealistic and strange times, and I think the art world of Eastern Europe is very relevant right now. I think of my beloved Nana is in her late 90’s — she’s survived the Soviet Union and now a pandemic in her lifetime and that amazes me. I think of her super-yums cabbage rolls, her angelic Eastern European skin, and her unspoken stories.

I think of my neighborhood of collectively over 10 years here in Chicago, Ukrainian Village, and all the early Soviet-era landlords’ stories….all the other devoted church-going nanas and their stories, too. I think of the guy at the Ukrainian gift shop on Chicago Avenue across from the grocery store that sells the coolest old-world gems that make you feel like you’re on a Rick Steves travel adventure. I think of Rich’s Deli, Kaszia’s delicatessen, and all the awesome Polish dive bars we have around here, still rocking Schlitz and Hamm’s neon signs from another era.

I think of how resilience through tragedy produces new genres of art.

Let’s watch 3 relevant cheeky and stylistic Věra Chytilová films — she captured Czechoslovakia in the period of time of communist rule.

Check out Criterion’s Czech New Wave Trailer Here.

  1. Věra Chytilová’s “Daisies” (1966)
    “Maybe the New Wave’s most anarchic entry, Vera Chytilovà’s absurdist farce follows the misadventures of two brash young women. Believing the world to be “spoiled,” they embark on a series of pranks in which nothing, food, clothes, men, war, is taken seriously.” criterionchannel.com
  2. Věra Chytilová’s “Prefab Story” (1979)
    “One of the unsung masterpieces of Věra Chytilová’s still largely obscure post-sixties career, this stingingly satiric yet deeply human tragicomedy surveys the everyday absurdity of existence in a ramshackle, perpetually under-construction prefab housing complex: a monument to Soviet idealism that, in its forlorn shoddiness, becomes a symbol of its failings. Blending slapsticks gags with a jagged vérité visual style, Chytilová fashions a devastatingly funny portrait of life in a (literally) crumbling society.” criterionchannel.com
  3. Věra Chytilová’s “The Inheritance or Fuckoffguysgoodday” (1992)
    “This wildly irreverent comedy — in which an irredeemably lazy, hard-drinking country bumpkin becomes an overnight millionaire and industrialist — lampoons the country’s transition from communism to capitalism with gleeful bad taste. Combining slapstick visual gags with swipes at Czech racism and misogyny, Chytilová fashions a riotous satire that has gone on to become a cult classic in its home country.”

You know how everyone is talking about Putin losing his damn mind? Has he gone crazy? There’s a photo floating around of him looking “ashen, bloated and unwell” from the past few days since the Ukrainian genocide began. One can only imagine how much Russian vodka he drinks to cope with his extreme paranoia. God bless the Ukrainian people…

The last film, “Fuckoffguysgoodday” was shown in the Moscow Film Festival and was decidedly a punk move during the reign of raging alcoholic communist Boris Yeltsin. He was not only a communist and part of the Soviet Union for over 40 years, but a Russian Oligarch who left office because of a bribery scandal revealed he tried to ensure his daughters (heiresses) some nice lines of credit. He handed over office to Putin. It’s said that Bill Clinton saw Yeltsin “found on Pennsylvania Avenue, drunk, in his underwear and trying to hail a taxi cab in order to find pizza” — my kind of party animal. The film is about a party animal heir “fuckoffguy” living to absurd misguided excess. Like a Czech Ferris Bueller or Black Sheep? Maybe, I have yet to see this one! I just wanted to tell the story about Yeltsin. This film looks great.

Even if you’re not a film nerd looking to check off your obscure Criterion watchlist, you will appreciate how ahead of its time the cinematography and how minimalistic its’ style is. I can’t help but think photographers like Jurgen Teller and Terry Richardson, and filmmakers like Vincent Gallo (think “Buffalo ‘66” surrealistic art-house style), were inspired by communist camp aesthetic. It captured a very specific type of lofi euro daily lifestyle that Chytilová’s and Czech New Wave avant-garde is so known for.

What other films are relevant right now? Tweet me @ jennrichter, and follow me here on Medium where I post short easy reading and digestible lists for auto-didactical types looking for design, film and cultural inspiration.

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Advertising Agency Creative Director—I write about Creatives & Creative Devices: Design, Fashion, Film & DJ Culture.

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Jenn Richter

Jenn Richter

Advertising Agency Creative Director—I write about Creatives & Creative Devices: Design, Fashion, Film & DJ Culture.

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