Saturday, March 15, 2014

Clownwise (orig. Klauni) [2013]

MPAA (NR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CSFD listing*
FDB.cz listing*

Clownwise (orig. Klauni) [2013] [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]* (directed by Viktor Tauš [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*, screenplay by Petr Jarchovský [IMDb] [CSFD]*, story by Boris Hybner [IMDb] [FDB]*) is a bittersweet comedy coming from the Czech Republic (with collaboration of Finland, Slovakia and Luxemburg) that played recently at the 17th Annual European Union Film Festival held at Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center.

The film's about a trio of  clown-actors -- Max (played by Oldřich Kaiser [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*), Viktor (played by Jiří Lábus [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) and Edgar (played by Dedier Flamand [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*)  -- who "back in the day" (25 years ago) had a very successful act going by the name Busters before, for various reasons, parting ways.  In 1985, four years before the fall of the fall of Communism in Central Europe, Edgar had ditched the group as it was touring in Western Europe, settling down eventually in Paris, eventually finding himself a new, larger troupe Les Orphelins, and ... a new wife, Fabienne (played by Julie Ferrier [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*). The other two on returning back to Prague eventually parted ways as well. Viktor shacked-up with another clown-performer named Sylvie (played by Kati Outinen [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) who had clearly become the love of his life and the two came to teach together at a performing arts school in Prague.  Max continued quite successfully with a solo career, eventually getting married as well to Marketa (played by Eva Jeníčková [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) some 20-25 years younger than he.  Together they've since had two small children, say 8-12 years old.  

Things would have continued in this way, with each of the three going on with their separate lives if not, after 25 years, Edgar and his wife Fabienne didn't decide to take their pantomime group to Prague.  And it made good business sense to plug that Edgar had been, "back in the day," perhaps "back in the cold days of Totalitarianism" a member of that successful trio called "Busters" which gave the people something to smile about.  'Cept ... of course there are a lot of loose ends.

For one it's been 25 years, and there TOTALLY DIFFERENT press now in Prague no longer concerned about toeing "Party lines" but, above all, "looking for dirt."  So after arriving in Prague with his troupe of French clown-performers, Edgar finds himself, all miked-up, in a very glitzy studio about to be interviewed for some "Entertainment Tonight" radio or television show ... by a 25 maybe 30 year-old "young whipper-snapper" of a reporter, who BEGINS his interview with Edgar with the question: "Well, when you left back in 1985, rather 'late in the game' in that (Totalitarian) Era, don't you think?"
          Edgar would no doubt like to reduce this pip-squeak to ashes: "IF YOU WEREN'T IN YOUR DIAPERS STILL IN 1985, YOU'D KNOW THAT THE 1980s right up to very days before those demonstrations in Wenceslas Square that brought about the Velvet Revolution in (November) 1989 were NOT exactly 'good years' in Communist Czechoslovakia."  INSTEAD, he responds, "Well you know it was complicated, there wasn't a lot of freedom, you never knew when you'd be allowed to travel outside the country again, etc ..."
          But the reporter persists: "Okay, but you were at the top of your career, okay perhaps plateaued, perhaps already in something of a decline.  But in the West, in FRANCE you were a NOBODY.  To be starting over at 45.  That must have been very difficult."
          "Well you know, that's a thing about us mimes, we speak each other's language." Good job Edgar, a zinger right back ... ;-).  "You can see it turned out okay."
          "Well, turning to your former colleagues from Busters.  Have you been in contact with them? Will we perhaps be seeing a re-uinon of you three on stage during one or another of Les Orphalins performances here in Prague?"
          "No, as a matter of fact, I haven't been in contact with my former colleagues here, but I imagine that they do keep-up with the news and know that I'm here now.  I do hope to see them during our tour here."
           "One final question, when you left in 1985, you left a wife and daughter here.  How's it been with them?  Do you plan to see them while you're out here?"
           "Okay, I'm done ..." Edgar slams his clip-on mike on the table and leaves the interview.

I told you that there were A LOT OF LOOSE ENDS...

Yes, Edgar has a former wife Anna (played by Taťjana Medvecká [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) and a 30 year-old daughter Natalie (played by Ivana Uhlířová [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) who hate him.  Natalie also has an 8 year old girl (Edgar's grand-daughter) who he's barely seen.  On the other side, he has his lovely and loving French wife Fabienne who he married since leaving Czechoslovakia, who honestly seemed to be good for him, seemed to understand him, and was all-but-born-to-play "a sad clown."

Then with regards to Edgar's former colleagues, their "parting" in 1985 was not good.  Indeed, given the nature of it, even if others might have sensed that Edgar was going to STAY (defect) in Western Europe at the end of their tour in 1985 (and perhaps even talked about it), when it actually came to pass it probably was improvised with the others standing in front of the hotel or at the train station asking each other: "Where's Edgar?" and later on their way home "What now?"

But both of Edgar's former colleagues are now also 25 years older, and other things are going on in their lives as well:

Max who married a woman 25 years younger than him, and now at, approaching 70 with two kids 8 and 12 years old, finds that he's come down with colon cancer requiring chemotherapy and eventually a colostomy ... Yes, he has a 45 year old wife, still managed to have two lovely kids, but now medically he may "no longer be able to get it up" and he's facing the reality that he's going to have to go around wearing a colostomy bag for the rest of his life.

Then Victor, who shacked-up with (and possibly married ...) the clear love of his life, Silvie, and the two have been _happily_ teaching together for the better part of two decades in some performing art school in Prague is finding himself having to face the reality that Silvie, the love of his life, is no longer who she was before.  What's happened to Silvie?  To tell you would be an unfair SPOILER but ... it will break your heart as it is Victor's...

So these are three aging "Clowns" facing some really difficult times in the twilight, sunset years of their lives.  What to do?  If you can, see the movie.

I am of Czech descent, so I am biased ... but what a film!

ADDENDUM:

There is _one_ scene in the film that seemed "out of place," unnecessary, perhaps even a little offensive.   On the other hand, knowing something of Czech films, it may have been put purposefully there to provoke (discussion).

In the scene the two young children of Max (the one who's approaching 70 and has been diagnosed of having colon cancer) find themselves in a Church and they walk around.  The little girl says: "Wow look at this guy all shot up by arrows."
            Her brother answers: "He's Saint Sebastian, that's how he died, shot up by arrows."
            "But by whom?  A bunch of Indians?"
            "I'm not sure, maybe."
            "Hey, since we're here, shouldn't we say a prayer for our dad?"
            "Why?  Look at how all these Saints ended up..."

Kids it's precisely because we all eventually have to die that it's a nice thing to pray to God about our needs.  Because our destiny is NOT here on this earth.  We will all eventually leave it.  Our destiny is actually with God, our Creator, who made us in the first place.  We're here only to learn ... and mostly perhaps to just learn this: to love God and then hopefully each other.


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