Monday, June 8, 2015

Icing (orig. Zakázané uvolnení) [2014]

MPAA (Unrated, would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing* listing (J. Gregor) review* (J. Kábrt) review* (M. Šobr) review* (M. Spáčilová) review*

Icing (orig. Zakázané uvolnení) [2014 [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*[CEu] (directed by Jan Hřebejk  [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]*[CEu], screen/stage play by Petr Kolečko [IMDb] [CSFD]*[CEu]) is a "Woody Allen meets Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy)" comedy that's part of the Annual (2015) Czech That Film Tour organized by the Czech Foreign Ministry / Ministry of Culture, which makes its stop this month (June, 2015) at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. 

Set at the end of a stylish, story-book "location wedding" that's taken-place outdoors in the verdant / rolling hills of Northern Moravia between a young, good-looking and quite contemporary Czech couple Klára (played by Zuzana Stavná [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu]) and Štepán (played by Ondřej Sokol [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu] who even looks a lot like Seth MacFarlane) it is certainly NOT politically correct, but that's in good part the point: Štepán, as confident / unflappable and good-looking as he is, is actually an idiot, but as an idiot, he of course doesn't know that ... And "knock-out" yet far, far less secure Klára "has issues" as well.

Part of what "goes wrong" at the _end of the wedding_ results from couple's decision to be (goofily) "unconventional" about it.  For whatever reason, they decided to pick their witnesses _opposite_ "to the gender norm."  So Klára picks a looker if not particularly confident guy/ friend named Tomáš (played by Igor Orozovič [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu]) while Štepán picks a sweet, perhaps "ever destined to be a bridesmaid" Slovakian friend named Iveta (played by Hana Vagnerová [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu]).  Iveta turns out, of course, to have been "more than a friend" to Štepán, which does lead one to wonder whose idea was it exactly to go against the gender conventions for the witnesses at the wedding.  Štepán's completely unthreatened by Klára's choice of Tomáš as her "man of honor" -- he just assumes that Tomáš is gay, and NOTHING can convince him otherwise.  On the other hand, this "throwing of convention into the wind" allows him to have BOTH his lovely but otherwise very conventional bride and his (in his mind, _wildly_ exotic) mistress at the wedding.

Seriously, one of the funniest, if of course, utterly appalling, scenes in the film is one in which Štepán describes to (who he, of course, assumes is gay) Tomáš what it's like to have such an exotic mistress "from the savage wilderness of the Slovakian Tatra mountains."  One would think from his description that Iveta's great-aunt was somehow Austalopithecine Lucy.  And yet we viewers, of course, _know_ dear, sweet Iveta from the previous 45 minutes of the film and would love to have as a trusted best friend, neighbor or colleague and would happily go TO HER WEDDING sometime in the future.  But then Štepán's an idiot ... but an idiot who Iveta loves, and arguably more than Klára. Indeed, throughout the film,  Klára's a basket-case focused, above all, on the wedding, her wedding, turning-out "perfect."  And well, here, near the end, all seems to be falling apart ...

So, what could be "falling apart" so close to the end of the day??  Well, by local tradition, near the end of the wedding reception, the bride's supposed to be "abducted," usually by the "Best Man" and then the Groom is supposed to take a little time to look for her.  And then, having "found her" (again) ... the two are to run off to their wedding night / honeymoon 

Well, the "Best Man" in this case is "Best Woman," Iveta.  Yet "following tradition," Iveta "abducts her" and takes her then to a local out-of-the way (largely empty ...) "Sports Bar" at the edge of town.   Readers remember here that this is taking place in the Czech Republic, so the local "sports bar" is a "hockey bar" named "Lapatka" (the Czech name for a goalie's hockey stick).

The bar's run by a somewhat tougher / "butchier" woman named Vladana (played by Jana Stryková [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu]) whose back story we find-out was that she was once a young struggling actress in Prague who once did a television commercial with a smiling, good-looking (and she insists _sensitive_) if MARRIED hockey player with whom she ran-off with.  Klára, of course, DOESN'T LIKE HER from the get-go (least of all on her wedding day...): "Don't you ever feel bad, that you RUINED somebody else's marriage?"  Well, Valdana replies: "If it makes you feel better, he ruined mine as well.  A few years later, he did an interview with someone on Czech Radio and ran-off with her ... And you know what's the worst.  Since she worked for Radio, I don't even know what she looks like ..." (Ba da bump!  I'm telling you folks, there is a Woody Allen quality to the film ;-) ;-)

So good, now ole (or at least older) Vladana's stuck running this Sports (Hockey) Bar (dedicated to her lout of an ex) at the edge of a Moravian hamlet at the edge of Nowhere (where her ex had presumably been from) pining to "one day return to Prague."

Anyway, the three sit there in the largely empty bar ... at the edge of Nowhere, where both Satellite and Cell phone reception is poor ... waiting for Štepán to arrive, find her (Klára) and then leave with her to go on their honeymoon.

And ... it starts raining ...  Štepán's delayed ... Much ensues ... ;-)

Now a word about the title for the film.  "Zakázané uvolnení" is the Czech term for the hockey term "Icing" ... In hockey, a team under pressure in their own end of the rink "ices" the puck (shoots it away to the other end of the rink) to relieve said pressure.  In English, this is called "icing the puck" and, of course, it is prohibited.  So after the other team retrieves the puck, officials blow the whistle, play is stopped, and the puck is brought back by the officials to the end where the action was taking place to resume play (there) again.

Now in Czech "Icing" is called "zakázané uvolnení" which literally means "prohibited easing."  As the three women -- "bride" Klára, "best-woman" Iveta and "hardened-a-bit by life / sports bar owner" Vladana -- wait there in a "sports bar at the edge of nowhere" (with poor reception and its raining) for "groom" Štepán to arrive much is "said" that once "said" can't really be "unsaid."  And one can't just "bat the ensuing problem(s) away ..." ;-)

So this is a clever / generally fun film ;-) ... though I would note that the Slovakian comments even if _intended to be exaggerated / appalling_ will probably needlessly offend many Slovaks.  And pointedly, Iveta, the _sweet_ if put-upon Slovakian character in the film was played ... by a Czech actress (apparently no Slovakian actress was willing to do the part).  And Czech reviewers also didn't give the film altogether high marks (averaging about 2-3 stars out of 5) in good part because its needlessly not-exactly PC nature.  Still, recognizing that Štepán's an idiot and Klára's a basket case, I found the film pretty funny ;-).

 * Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser.  

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