The Prague summer has certainly changed, as evidenced by "Mandragora," a tale of disenfranchised youth caught up in hustling and porn to earn a fast buck. While the territory has been well covered dramatically in movies from many societies, there is some novelty in seeing the yarn unfold in this particular setting. Outside of Eastern Europe, pic will primarily play arthouses. Capitalizing on the material's more sensational components, it could see wider exposure if dubbed into local lingos. Marek (Mirek Caslavka), a 16-year-old from a provincial village, runs away to Prague after failing at school and coming to physical blows with his father. A naif, he's mugged shortly after arriving at the city's train depot. Ready to pluck his chicken, Fagin-like Honza (Pavel Skripal) descends with the promise of work. Marek is taken to an apartment and drugged, becoming just another male hustler, destined to burn out within a year or two.

The Prague summer has certainly changed, as evidenced by “Mandragora,” a tale of disenfranchised youth caught up in hustling and porn to earn a fast buck. While the territory has been well covered dramatically in movies from many societies, there is some novelty in seeing the yarn unfold in this particular setting. Outside of Eastern Europe, pic will primarily play arthouses. Capitalizing on the material’s more sensational components, it could see wider exposure if dubbed into local lingos.

Marek (Mirek Caslavka), a 16-year-old from a provincial village, runs away to Prague after failing at school and coming to physical blows with his father. A naif, he’s mugged shortly after arriving at the city’s train depot. Ready to pluck his chicken, Fagin-like Honza (Pavel Skripal) descends with the promise of work. Marek is taken to an apartment and drugged, becoming just another male hustler, destined to burn out within a year or two.

The boy, however, is a bit smarter than the others, and, after teaming up with David (David Svec, who co-wrote the script) and going after bigger scores, the two wind up in a position to partner with their bosses. The dream is, of course, to cash in and get out.

Story unfolds as a cautionary tale; the two lads can beat the odds only for a brief time. When he manages to stash away a bit of money, David heads back to his town with Marek in tow. But when it comes time to knock on the door of his parents’ apartment, he loses his courage and is soon headed back to the city.

Though briskly directed by Wiktor Grodecki, “Mandragora” (its title a reference to a fictional utopia) hews to genre convention rather than plowing new ground. Demonstrating a fluid style, the filmmaker has the potential to develop a unique stamp once he can secure more challenging material.

Mandragora

Czech Republic

Production

A Prague Film Enterprises production. Produced by Jaroslav Stanek, Miroslav Steinbach, Petr Hlinovsky. Directed by Wiktor Grodecki. Screenplay, Grodecki, David Svec.

Crew

Camera (color), Vladimir Holomek; editor, Grodecki; music, Hammerschmid. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal (Cinema of Today), Aug. 30, 1997. Running time: 129 MIN.

With

Marek Nedela - Mirek Caslavka David Kovac - David Svec Honza - Pavel Skripal Libor - Miroslav Breu Sacha - Karel Polisensky Krysa - Kostas Zedraloglu George - Richard Toth Mr. Nedela - Jiri Kodes
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