Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original Title: Ucho
Czechoslovakia, 1990. Filmové studio Barrandov. Story by Jan Procházka, Ladislav Winkelhöfer, Screenplay by Karel Kachyna, Jan Procházka. Cinematography by Josef Illík. Produced by Karel Vejrík. Music by Svatopluk Havelka. Production Design by Oldrich Okac. Film Editing by Miroslav Hajek. Cannes Film Festival 1990.
A minister in the Czech government comes home from a black tie function with his wife, who has enjoyed the champagne a bit too much at the event and is having trouble staying upright. They tangle awkwardly with their locked gate, then once inside become suspicious that their house has been entered since they left for the party. Flashing back to the conversations he had at the ball regarding colleagues of his who have been “reassigned” (i.e. removed from their posts and likely never to be seen again), Ludvik (played by hunky Radoslav Brzobohatý) thinks his house might be bugged and he might be next, which is inconvenient considering that conflicts with glamorous wife Anna (Jirina Bohdalová, they were a couple in real life at the time) are being brought up amid their fears that they are being observed. Convinced that there are microphones hidden everywhere, they decide to be careful but then openly argue about their personal problems more when they try to convince each other to keep it under wraps, leading to a long night of arguments that they’re sure will get them relocated to Siberia by the time the morning rolls around. Banned in Czechoslovakia for twenty years and only seeing the light of day at the Cannes Film Festival in 1990, this searing, uncompromising criticism of the country’s socialist government is as funny as it is important, the main characters never feel like symbols in a lecture and deliver their tirades at each other with exceptional skill while benefiting from very sexy onscreen chemistry. Gorgeously shot in deep shadows and making the most of its few locations (mainly the ballroom and the house), it’s a daring work that one can hardly believe get made, but plays its rebellion out with a good deal of joy as well as concern.