Příběhy obyčejného šílenství
English Title: Wrong Way Up. Petr Zelenka's new comedy, his first film since Rok ďábla, is a gently surreal story of a quietly desperate life
Starring: Ivan Trojan, Zuzana Šulajová, Miroslav Krobot,
Plot Summary: Adapted from Zelenka's own play. Petr Hanek (Trojan), 33, has lost his job and his girlfriend, Jana (Šulajová). His attempts to win her back are complicated by the increasingly bizarre situations he finds himself in. Petr's eccentric mother (Divíšková), meanwhile, attempts to snap Petr's father (Krobot) out of his emotional detachment, with unexpected results.
Review: A comedy-drama with the emphasis firmly on comedy, writer-director Petr Zelenka's new film is a gently surreal story of a man slipping toward a midlife crisis.
His ex-girlfriend, Jana, is on the brink of marrying her affluent new boyfriend, and after losing his job in an air-traffic control tower, Petr has wound up working at a logistics center at Ruzyně airport, for a man who prefers a mannequin to his wife.
His home life, meanwhile, is a boozy, befuddled fog, complicated by a duvet that seems to have a life of its own and the eye-opening requests of his new neighbors, Alice and Jiří.
Petr's parents are no less strange. His mother obsesses over the world's trouble spots and the increasingly torpid state of his father, David, whose situation mirrors Petr's own.
Once a celebrity (of sorts), known for his voiceovers on communist-era newsreels, David Hanek has turned his back on the world, initially showing interest in little except for the bubbles in beer bottles.
While some of the movie's more far-fetched moments strain credulity, tipping the movie over from surrealism into silliness, the quality of acting, writing and direction ultimately win through.
Zelenka has worked hard to strip the movie version of Příběhy obyčejného šílenství (literally, "Tales of Ordinary Insanity") of the staginess that often dogs theatre adaptations, breathing life into the script with imaginative use of locations, cinematography and music.
Among a strong ensemble cast, the instantly sympathetic Trojan makes Petr an easy character to identify with, however strange the going gets.
The real star of Wrong Way Up, however, is Miroslav Krobot, a theatrical director who only made his acting debut in the stage version of Příběhy obyčejného šílenství.
Despite his limited experience, his portrayal of Petr's endearingly odd father, and his unlikely rebirth, is one of the movie's highlights.
For all its quirks, Příběhy obyčejného šílenství is aimed at the Czech mainstream, with the product placements to prove it. There's little truly radical or ground-breaking here, particularly in the portrayal of relationships between men and women, but the movie remains a quality piece of work.
Zelenka enjoyed major critical and commercial success with his previous two films, Knoflíkáři and Rok ďábla, and there's little in Příběhy obyčejného šílenství to suggest that that run will be coming to an end.
PTV Rating: 4 out of 5
English Title: Wrong Side Up
Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes
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