Ubu’s attempted rape of the king’s pubescent daughter (Ester Geislerova), hindered by a most effective chastity belt, leads to a droll escape, with the princess dropping chunks of clanking metal underwear as she hotfoots it across the spectacularly unimpressive countryside. Now initiated in “the art of multiplying,” she seduces her royal cousin in a cleverly filmed sequence involving only a piano, a flashlight’s beam emanating from under its lid and the sound of plunking piano strings.
Meanwhile, Ubu’s former accomplice, Capt. M’Nure of Lithuania (Karel Roden), defects back to the widowed queen (Chantal Poullain) and joins forces with the Russian tsar (Ivan Zacharias). Ubu doesn’t stand a chance in the ensuing battle, what with his sexually insatiable wife reducing the ranks of his army, one soldier at a time, to nothing more than exhausted puffs of smoke.
Except for the quickly tiresome use of fast-forward sequences whenever there’s a potentially long crowd scene (though the crowds are pretty sparse), the filming is accomplished and often creative, aided by skillful use of lighting. In one sequence, Brabec swiftly places the setting on the Russian steppes, then pulls back the camera from three onion domes against the snowy horizon to reveal them as hats on the tsar and his aides.
It’s but one example of a fine cameraman’s eye that should inspire collaboration with a deserving director. But with the exception of a devilish performance by Labuda (“My Sweet Little Village,” “The Garden”) in the title role, the actors sometimes seem lost at sea.