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Reality Shock

Holding up the unusually eccentric villagers of a remote hollow in far eastern Poland for all to see, Stanislaw Mucha's "Reality Shock" shows a similar tender enthusiasm for its odd gallery of characters as did Errol Morris in his legendary "Vernon, Florida." Yet pic pushes its weirdness to the point of diminishing returns, suggesting a similar fate for the third film in a loose trilogy that began with "Absolut Warhola" and "The Center."

Holding up the unusually eccentric villagers of a remote hollow in far eastern Poland for all to see, Stanislaw Mucha’s “Reality Shock” shows a similar tender enthusiasm for its odd gallery of characters as did Errol Morris in his legendary “Vernon, Florida.” Yet pic pushes its weirdness to the point of diminishing returns, suggesting a similar fate for the third film in a loose trilogy that began with “Absolut Warhola” and “The Center.”

“Once upon a time there was a Europe,” intones a narrator, “and it had many, many problems.” Scripted docu then opens with a musical trio called Billy’s Band performing the title tune with manic zest on electric guitar, stand-up bass and accordion.

So far east it has a sign helpfully pointing out the border between Europe and Asia, this wooded region of Poland sports some odd characters indeed. Most of these denizens are bracingly cynical about their chances in the E.U.: “Europe doesn’t need an identity,” grumps one. “It needs more bars.”

One local retreated to the woods following a disastrous career as a circus knife-thrower that lasted precisely one toss, while a group of defiant misfits operate a pub dedicated to Lenin featuring his large metal bust on the roof. Another gentleman, speaking of an apparently famous local UFO sighting two dozen years ago, proudly claims the visitors were most interested in examining his belt.

Pic is only sporadically laugh-out-loud funny, preferring to stumble among the absurdist characters with gusto but no apparent purpose. The most inspired sustained gag involves the blue EU flag, which appears on everything from the traditional pennant to balloons, a carpet and even a snail’s shell.

Tech credits are pro, with helmer to be commended for continuing to pursue his increasingly surrealistic vision on good old-fashioned 35mm film. Pic’s title is in English only.

Reality Shock

Poland - Germany

Production: A Kaleidoscope Film Studio (Poland)/Telepool (Germany) production. (International sales: Telepool, Munich.) Produced by Stanislaw Mucha, Zbigniew Domagalski. Directed, written by Stanislaw Mucha.

Crew: Camera (color), Krzysztof Pakulski; editors, Bogdan Saganowski, Jacek Tarasiuk; music, Billy's Band. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (competing), July 7, 2005. Running time: 79 MIN.

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