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Whisper

While the major film industries of Central Europe continue to produce increasingly polished commercial cinema, one factor limiting many films to exclusively local consumption is obsolete sexual politics. Czech director David Ondricek's glossy first feature, "Whisper," falls into this category with its maudlin, 1950s take on gay sexuality. Regardless, the frothy romantic comedy depicting contemporary Prague youth culture was one of the Czech Republic's top-grossing domestic productions of the past year; a similar reception in Western countries looks highly questionable. Country bumpkin Anna (Tatiana Vilhelmova) runs away from her family and the military academy where she studies and falls in with a bunch of friends who share an apartment in Prague. Naturally, she gets an instant makeover (peroxided hair and '70s retro outfits), while her unworldly sense of values receives a jolt from the attitudes of the hip city kids.

With:
Anna ..... Tatiana Vilhelmova Filip ..... Jan P. Muchow Kytka ..... Martin Mysicka Speedy ..... Jan Cechticky Irma ..... Katerina Winterova

Anna is puzzled by lethargic Irma (Katerina Winterova), who sits around moping about the latest of many bust-ups, and by permanently stoned Speedy (Jan Cechticky), but she takes an immediate liking to his sensitive brother Filip (Jan P. Muchow). She fails to catch on until much later, however, that Filip has a relationship going with his moody roommate Kytka (Martin Mysicka), who turns tricks at night with middle-aged men.

The story ambles along agreeably enough with little in the way of concrete incident other than its easy study of kids coping with love, friendship and their first tastes of adult commitment. Things change when a night of abandon at a disco prompts Filip to cross over and sample Anna’s affections. Kytka’s jealous rage drives him to attempt murder and suicide before ending up institutionalized, while the newly formed couple (following through on a recurrent space motif) ride off into the galaxy in a flying saucer. Hello!?

Production values are bright and colorful, and Ondricek’s background in musicvideos is evident in occasional stylized touches such as twinkling night skies or the B&W, warped-sound dog’s-eye-view images of the group as seen by Speedy’s outsize pooch.

Whisper

Czech

Production: A Negativ Film presentation of a Negativ, KF, Studio 7 production with participation of Eurocine. (International sales: Eurocine, Paris.) Produced by Petr Oukropec, Pavel Strnad. Directed by David Ondricek. Screenplay, Ondricek, Tomas Masin, Jan Novak.

Crew: Camera (color), Alexander Surkala; editor, Petr Turyna; music, Jan P. Muchow, Colorfactory; art direction, Tomas Kuca; costume design, Katka Coufalikova; sound, Jan Cenek. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (competing), Feb. 4, 1997. Running time: 86 MIN.

With: Anna ..... Tatiana Vilhelmova Filip ..... Jan P. Muchow Kytka ..... Martin Mysicka Speedy ..... Jan Cechticky Irma ..... Katerina Winterova

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