At first blush a Czech teen pic about the adventures of a pair of graffiti-loving high school chums, helmer Tomas Vorel’s “The Can”is actually a sly comedy about the uneasy detente between adults and adolescents in the educational arena. Pic, which spent six weeks atop the Czech box office in fall 2007 on the strength of pin-up boy Jiri Madl, makes for light fest fare and solid tube buys, with a strong disc afterlife in the can.
Artistically inclined teenager Petr (Tomas Vorel Jr., helmer’s son) channels the frustrations of being raised by an alkie single Mom (Zuzana Bydzovska) into complex urban graffiti projects.
“What are you fighting against?” asks g.f. Pavla (Martina Prochazkova), and, in a neat twist on James Dean’s “Rebel Without a Cause” reply, a surprised Petr says, “Nothing, I just like it.”
He soon teams up with neophyte tagger Michal (Madl), and bulk of pic essays their waxing and waning allegiances with friends and each other. Director Vorel has a keen feel for the rhythms of adolescence, largely avoiding cliche and histrionics.
Older auds leery of threatened teen hijinx can rest easy, however, as the film gradually develops a series of satisfying subplots featuring an all-star cast of Czech character vets and Vorel regulars as parents and schoolteachers of varying temperaments.
Best of these include stage and screen mainstay Eva Holubova (“Pupendo”) as Headmistress Mirka, “Beauty in Trouble” baddie Jiri Schmitzer as an excitable Czech teacher, and lesser-known Tomas Matonoha as the most liberal and tolerant of the educators.
Tech credits are pro, with distorted close-ups, direct eye contact and thumping hip-hip emulating an adolescents’ eye view and feel of the world. Bydzovska copped the Czech Lion for her supporting turn, while real-life Czech politician Pavel Telicka makes his bigscreen bow as Mirka’s officious superior. Vorel pere pops up occasionally as the school’s befuddled janitor.