Velvet Hangover | Chicago Reader

Velvet Hangover

In the first half of this documentary on Czech cinema, video makers Robert Buchar and David Smith stress the emergence of the Czech New Wave as a presence in world cinema circa 1966, the increasing freedom that followed, and the repression after the Soviet invasion in 1968. The second half discusses the Czech film scene since the fall of communism, and its stark tale of the cultural collapse brought by capitalism deserves our attention—relatively few films are made, and because they have to earn a profit, social analysis gives way to light entertainment. Czech director Vera Chytilova says she “expected that after a period of enforced materialism we would have a spiritual period, [but] today we have materialism that is more materialistic than Marxism ever was.” Buchar and Smith explore all this in exhaustive, sometimes exhausting detail, and while they skillfully juxtapose talking heads, their reliance on them makes this 143-minute opus an exercise in subtitle reading.

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