×

Cosy Dens

Winner of the critic's prize at this year's Karlovy Vary fest, "Cosy Dens" was also a surprise hit in Vancouver, where it neared the top of the popular vote. That makes sense, because this bittersweet tale is one of the outstanding Czech films of recent times, deserving the kind of international attention Jiri Menzel and Milos Forman received three decades ago.

With:
With: Michal Beran, Miroslav Donutil, Jiri Kodet, Kristyna Novakova, Simona Stasova, Emilia Vasaryova, Ondrej Brousek, Eva Holubova, Boleslav Polivka, Sylvie Koblizkova, Stella Zazvorkova, Jaroslav Dusek, Jiri Krejcik, Marek Morvai-Javorsky.

Winner of the critic’s prize at this year’s Karlovy Vary fest, “Cosy Dens” was also a surprise hit in Vancouver, where it neared the top of the popular vote. That makes sense, because this bittersweet tale is one of the outstanding Czech films of recent times, deserving the kind of international attention Jiri Menzel and Milos Forman received three decades ago. Brilliant helmer Jan Hrebejk’s third pic may not travel past big cities commercially, but it should garner a significant critical mass.

Set in the Christmas season leading up to the ill-fated Prague Spring of 1968 , this perfectly handled coming-of-age comedy sticks to two families in a small suburban apartment building. Teenage Michal Sebek (Michael Beran) has a major crush on his cool and pretty neighbor, Jindriska Kraus (Kristyna Novakova), but they are divided by politics and more. His clan is ostensibly run by a dimwitted army officer (hilarious Miroslav Donutil) while her dad (Jiri Kodet) is an even more autocratic opponent of the communists, protected only by his status as a genuine war hero.

This doesn’t make him brave enough to stop his rebellious daughter from calling her mother’s Czech dumplings gnocchi, causing nationalistic apoplexy in the Kraus household. Mr. Sebek, meanwhile, is convinced that the dazzling new plasticware from East Germany will finally put those decadent Americans in their place, although his son is far more concerned about that handsome hipster (Ondrej Brousek) Jindriska starts going out with.

The shaggy-haired lad plays piano, wears Beatles boots and has his own movie projector, the better to play films from Hollywood and prewar France for the neighborhood. (One even leads to Michal being taunted for his supposed resemblance to Jean Marais.)

Pic is superbly cast with thesps who move effortlessly from poignant family insights to outright physical comedy, including hair that’s lazily set on fire and an imported Soviet “toy” that purposely tortures children.

Another standout is veteran Boleslav Polivka, as the officer’s brainier but oh-so-competitive brother, and Czechophiles will recognize helming great Jiri Krejcik as a sympathetic and overworked family doctor.

Jan Malir’s lensing and Milan Bycek’s sets are alive with affectionately wrought period detail (itself aided by sweetly corny pop music from the era), even if the verisimilitude is undermined by subtitles rendered in laughably modern Americanese. Sixties preteens keep saying “Awesome!” and an adult even cries, “Don’t believe the hype.” This makes the British spelling of the title even odder. Original name is closer to “Little Rooms,” and it’s worth noting that Petr Jarchovsky’s fine script smooths out and meaningfully connects the wholly episodic elements of Petr Sabach’s “Shit Burns,” the novel upon which this unforgettable pic is based.

Cosy Dens

Czech

Production: A Czech TV/Pavel Borovan Creative Group production, in association with Total HelpArt and Studio Barrandov. (International sales: Telexport, Prague.) Produced by Pavel Borovan. Executive producer, Ondrej Trojan. Directed by Jan Hrebejk. Screenplay, Petr Jarchovsky, based on the novel "Shit Burns" by Petr Sabach.

Crew: Camera (color), Jan Malir; editor, Vladimir Barak; music, various; production designer, Milan Bycek; costume designer, Katerina Holla. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival, Sept. 25, 1999. (Also in AFI/L.A., London film festivals.) Running time: 116 MIN.

With: With: Michal Beran, Miroslav Donutil, Jiri Kodet, Kristyna Novakova, Simona Stasova, Emilia Vasaryova, Ondrej Brousek, Eva Holubova, Boleslav Polivka, Sylvie Koblizkova, Stella Zazvorkova, Jaroslav Dusek, Jiri Krejcik, Marek Morvai-Javorsky.

More Film

  • Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) and Bella (Amber)

    China's Bona Film Boards Brad Pitt's 'Ad Astra,' 'A Dog's Way Home' (EXCLUSIVE)

    China’s Bona Film Group is co-financing Brad Pitt space adventure “Ad Astra,” one of several films in a strong slate of international movies the company plans to release in the Middle Kingdom over the next year. Bona has also acquired Roland Emmerich’s war spectacular “Midway” and is investing in “A Dog’s Way Home,” the sequel [...]

  • Aquaman 2018

    Film News Roundup: 'Aquaman' Sets Pre-Sales Record

    In today’s film news roundup, “Aquaman” sets a pre-sales record, “Bohemian Rhapsody” hits a milestone, and SAG-AFTRA promotes four executives.  PRE-SALES RECORD “Aquaman” has set a pre-sales record for Atom Tickets, topping “Deadpool 2,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Black Panther.” More Reviews Film Review: 'The Quake' Film Review: Clint Eastwood in 'The Mule' “Clearly, ‘Aquaman’ [...]

  • 'Liga' Kicks Off At Ventana Sur's

    Ventana Sur: 'La Liga' Kicks Off at Buenos Aires' Animation!

    Spain’s Quirino Awards, Argentina’s Animation! and Mexico’s Pixelatl Festival, three key events in Ibero-American animation, will join forces to create La Liga (The League), as announced Wednesday at an Animation! round table hosted by the Quirino Awards, titled “Iberoamerican Alliance Models.” Speakers included Quirino Awards promoter José Luis Farias, Mexico’s Pixelatl director José Iñesta, Gonzalo [...]

  • The Quake Review

    Film Review: 'The Quake'

    Roar Uthaug’s 2015 “The Wave” revived the pleasures of the 1970s disaster-movie cycle in a form that seemed purer than the never-quite-dead genre’s recent Stateside incarnations — most of which seem to involve Dwayne Johnson in a generic pileup of CGI perils. “The Wave” wasn’t high art, but it was entertainment that delivered some standard [...]

  • The Mule trailer

    Film Review: Clint Eastwood in 'The Mule'

    From Dirty Harry to … dirty grandpa, Clint Eastwood certainly has a type of character that he plays best, and “The Mule” finds him squarely in his comfort zone, appearing as a surly old horticulturalist who, at age 90, has become perhaps the most reliable drug runner for the Sinaloa cartel, evading detection for nearly [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content