Rok ďábla (Year of the Devil)

Classic Movie Review: Petr Zelenka's mockumentary successfully combines comedy, music and metaphysics

Director: Petr Zelenka

Writer: Petr Zelenka Starring: Jaromír Nohavica, Čechomor, Jan Prent, Jaz Coleman

Likened by some to a Czech Spinal Tap, Rok ďábla shares little with its supposed forebear beyond the rockumentary format and a minor fixation with spontaneous combustion. Petr Zelenka's magical-realist mock doc spuriously chronicles the rise of Čechomor - actually a long-popular trad-rock outfit, cloaked here as a busking funeral band - through the offices of an angelic folkie (Karel Plíhal), a devilish punk vet (Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman) and an enigmatic bard (Jaromír Nohavica), whose various collisions and collaborations grow ever more musically and metaphysically intense.

Save for Jan Prent as a Dutch filmmaker who becomes fascinated with fellow alcoholic Nohavica, all the principles play themselves, or versions of themselves, in a fictitious story that incorporates real events while playing on the public personae of its stars (particularly the Dylanesque Nohavica). If it all sounds a bit circular and insular, Zelenka "and his friends" (as all his films are credited) eschew postmod gaming for deft deadpan comedy imbued with unexpected stabs of grace, touching on matters of addiction, fame, transcendence, ghosts and grooming with surprising, engaging results. (They even milk a funny, revealing scene out of the eternal boxers/briefs debate.) The refreshingly matter-of-fact approach to questions of spirituality and self-knowledge contrasts nicely with the gossamer eccentricity of too many recent Czech films, including Zelenka's inferior follow-up, Příběhy obyčejného šílenství. Good music too.

Year: 2002

Runtime: 1 hour, 28 minutes

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