Thankful for World Cinema: Black Peter

Facets, for those who don’t know is a great distributor with whom lovers of independent, arthouse and international cinema should become well acquainted.  The selection of their films is only one reason. Another is their scholarly attitude. What is meant by this is the following: first, this DVD is part of the Czech New Wave line. Yes, it is true that the New Wave started in France with a very specific group of filmmakers, but its reverberations were felt worldwide and spawned similar movements elsewhere like the Czech New Wave and Cinema Novo in Brazil. Second, is that this DVD actually includes a booklet, with an essay in it no less. Remember when DVD first started and you’d get at least a fly leaf with chapter list? Now, no more. At least here there is not only a booklet, but actual information.

Also, another benefit if you join Facets site is the occasional discount and sale only available through them. There was a code sent out via email to subscribers so this DVD only cost me $0.01 plus shipping.

The booklet is interesting because it tells of Forman growing up with family acquaintances in their grocery store. A location not dissimilar to where our protagonist finds himself apprenticing at the beginning of this tale, he is employed to watch for people shoplifting and report or confront any who are. This film has a rather humorous beginning but other than the occasional interaction between Peter and his parents has little to offer later on.

It is the kind of film that you know has something going on but may not be absolutely certain what immediately. What is clear is that there is a generational and philosophical gap being exposed. They are represented both by Peter’s father and his boss who represent the older generation and a more repressed, rationalistic, communist frame of mind. There are also, however, liberating agents at play mainly being romance in the person of Peter’s girlfriend and Rock N’ Roll music. Both of which converge at a local dance floor for an extended sequence.

What is also likely to throw an audience off with a lack of context is that, to quote Mark Twain, “those looking for a plot will be shot.” Milos Forman, acclaimed director of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus, said of this film that he wanted to “collect the ‘most real,’ that is, the flattest snippets of life to make a deadly satire of it.” Keeping that and the fact that Forman wanted to take a documentarian style mixing neorealistic elements with the New Wave in mind, it is a success in that regard. It’s just not a resounding one.

The bully characters while they are very annoying at the start slowly, wordlessly become Peter’s allies. Moving from older more backward sentiments to younger more modern ideas but their involvement is cumbersome in what plot there is and is at times too much.

Inasmuch as the director seems to achieve what he wanted it was successful. All New Wave films were in effect experiments and this one didn’t fail miserably and is entertaining enough but certainly not earth shattering.