Watching a peculiarly American pop culture creation like Howard Stern make his first media splash in the Czech Republic made traveling 15,000 miles almost bearable. Stern’s autobiographical — not to mention auto-erotic — feature film debut, “Private Parts,” unreeled earlier this month as part of the competition lineup at the 32nd Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival. As part of his much-self-promoted crusade to be known as the King of All Media, Stern just notched another victory: “Private Parts” not only competed in the FIAPF-sanctioned A-status fest race — it took home a prize.
The Betty Thomas-directed comedy tied for the fest’s Audience Award with Vladimir Michalek’s “Zapomenute Svetlo” (“Forgotten Light”), a Czech drama about a Catholic priest in a conflict of conscience and politics. The packed house in the Grand Hall of the town’s Hotel Thermal went nuts for the raucous and ribald Stern-starring biopic, which is titled, for Czech consumption, “Soukrome Neresti,” or “Private Vices,” which loses Stern’s point, as it were, in the translation.
The award is voted on by ballots submitted by the auds after the screenings. For the entertainment industry conspirators among us, consider this: In this venerable spa town out in the far western corner of Bohemia, ballot-stuffing from the shock jock’s rabid American fans wasn’t the reason for his victory.
The Czechs and the rest of the international film buffs simply enjoyed and appreciated the quality of the film, which was noted by dozens of Stateside critics when the film made its U.S. bow earlier this year. In fact, the original strong buzz on the film set Stern up for a rare deflation when the picture wound up grossing an underwhelming $41 million domestically.
In Karlovy Vary, however, Stern got the last laugh, and on a stage filled with film and culture dignitaries from Czech prexy Vaclav Havel to master helmer Milos Forman, “Private Parts” walked away with a trophy. Unfortunately, neither Thomas, Stern nor the film’s Czech-born producer, Ivan Reitman, was on hand to savor the moment, or see the giant billboards dotting the city bearing a huge still of Stern as his “Fartman” character, bending over in front of an acolyte.
Which is a shame, because all of the principals on this film can appreciate the irony of Stern’s scatological visage decorating the Karlovy Vary colonnade where an aged Goethe courted his lover and Beethoven strolled on afternoons long past. They’d also have gotten a genuine emotional charge out of seeing their tale of an iconoclast in conflict with a savage bureaucrat screening for an appreciative audience only a few years free of five decades of savagely bureaucratic oppression.