December 17, 2007

Czech Dream: A welcome consumer nightmare


Reviewer: James van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ****

Any movie that knocks about your most cherished belief, say, that Capitalism--or, what the hell, Communism, Christianity, the Internet, the motion picture industry--is the greatest achievement of the modern world, is to be treasured. Doubting one's dream is generally salutary, and Czech Dream leaves us doing just this—and more; this little (less-than-90-minutes) documentary is a knockout.

The concept is certainly original and funny: Filmmakers Vít Klusák and Filip Remundathe use modern marketing techniques to wage a massive promotional campaign for a super-supermarket in the Czech Republic--only it's all a ruse. The film is full of surprising and meaningful moments, all along the way: the ad man explaining why he can't "lie" is wonderfully ironic, even touching, in its naiveté. But the best is the last half hour, once the hoax has been unmasked. Seeing/hearing the various Czechs give us their thoughts and feelings on the matter forces us, too, to stop and think about how we are all manipulated, by all the media--left, right and center--all the time. These two Czech filmmakers, bless their hearts and minds, have opened the door a crack wider so that we can begin to see and understand this influence/control of the people by the powers that be and by society itself, our ever-loving peers.

Let's be honest here: There is a rather large level of dishonesty and hurt in this hoax. Watching the old woman with her canes limp along, after coming all the way--only to be disappointed--is sad and moving. But then you'll rally. This brilliant documentary gives us much to ponder, amidst our guffaws. Even the music and songs are terrific. Don't miss this one.

Note: And for a perfect double feature, rent the finally-available-on-DVD cable TV version of Wallace Shawn's brilliant play The Fever, in which a never-better Vanessa Redgrave shakes to its very timbers your sense of "entitlement."

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Posted by cphillips at December 17, 2007 2:09 PM