PRAGUE – Sometimes it takes more than films to make a festival. Karlovy Vary got a facelift (along with new management) in 1995 when its four-man design team came on board.
Brothers Michal and Simon Caban (an award-winning team of director-choreographer and set designer photographer Tono Stano and graphics artist Ales Najbert gave the dying fest an energy fix filled with a playful spirit that synced with the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival’s notably young audiences.
Armed with a minimal budget and a maximum of imagination, they managed to transform the festival headquarters, the stunningly repulsive communist concrete Thermal Hotel, into a retrohip meeting place. Buckets of paint, and everything from cutting-room floor film stock (for atmosphere) to snow shovels (for barstools) to overstuffed chairs (for lounging) from Barrandov studio storage gets begged or borrowed in the process.
The festival’s opening and closing ceremonies, choreographed by Michal Caban, can often spark more conversation than the night’s film, especially the naughty ‘n’ nice abundance of female flesh that causes foreigners’ eyebrows to leap.
The inspiration began with the 1995 homage to Hedy Lamarr in “Ecstasy,” the first Czech erotic movie, and came full circle this year with the design of a new award statuette, this time a golden Hedy Lamarr figure holding a crystal globe. Czech beauties are likely to get full coverage (make that uncoverage) as long as the Caban brothers and company are in charge.
“We prefer women and girls to men,” admits Caban.
One exception to the femme-themed shows which elicited audible gasps from the audience, was the chain gang of prisoners that dangled from ropes high above the Great Hall stage two years ago. But kisses and sexual fireworks (last year’s theme outfitted in candy-colored pastels) or the tantalizing gyrations of this year’s nudes (in rich orange wigs and shaved within less than an inch of what remained of their modesty, encased in sheer stretch fabric tubes) are more the norm.
The Caban stamp was stronger that ever this year, with the brothers creating a black-and-white study of supple bodies in motion. Played before each competition entry during the festival’s 11 days, it never failed to get a solid round of applause.
“We know we are a small country and a small festival. We have to bring something extra,” says Caban.