For film audiences, movies devoted to the pioneers of cinema have a nostalgic charm – and Jiří Menzel’s picture is no exception. Shot for the 80th anniversary of the establishment of Czech cinema, this movie is based on the lives of real historical figures whose identities were concealed by new names, which still made it easy to guess who they were. The owner of Prague’s first permanent cinema, Viktor Ponrepo, is called Vilém Pasparte in Those Wonderful Men with Crank, the film pioneer Jan Kříženecký had his name changed to Jakub Kolenatý, and the cabaret artist and first Czech film actor Josef Šváb-Malostranský became Jára Šlapeta. Other characters in this whimsical comedy about the beginnings of film in the Czech lands also have real prototypes, as do the films made by the fictional heroes of Those Wonderful Men with Crank. Although Jiří Menzel used his knowledge of archive materials and historical facts in his eighth film, he and fellow screenwriter Oldřich Vlček did not adhere too closely to real life. Consequently, the filmmakers not only offer a vivid and informed insight into history, but also provide an entertaining spectacle conceived as retro-nostalgia.
The cinematographer Jaromír Šofr and composer Jiří Šust made an important contribution to the film’s alluring atmosphere. Menzel made use of a playful and poetic narrative approach, which provided him with a safe and crowd-pleasing setting during the difficult “normalisation” era of Soviet entrenchment that followed the Warsaw Pact invasion. The director entrusted the lead role in this joyful tribute to the difficult craft of filmmaking to Rudolf Hrušínský, who had already been a perceptive collaborator in the nostalgic tragicomedy Rozmarné léto (Capricious Summer, 1967). While the role of the mercurial comedian Šlapeta was played by Vladimír Menšík, Menzel symbolically reserved the part of the first Czech director for himself. The co-screenwriter Oldřich Vlček appears in this timeless film in a smaller role as Berousek.
DAFilms.com is powered by Doc Alliance, a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.