Poets Never Lose Hope

Fifth installment in helmer Dusan Klein's serio-comic "Poets" series, which since 1982 has charted the fortunes of the restlessly romantic Stepan Safranek and his buddies, "Poets Never Lose Hope" finds the now-40 doctor seeking solace by trading in his 35-year-old g.f. for a younger woman. Auds familiar with the whole cycle will get more out of the pic than beginners, though it stands up well enough as a self-contained film.

With:
With: Pavel Kriz, David Matasek, Michaela Badinkova, Tereza Brodska, Lukas Vaculik, Josef Somr, Jana Hlavcova, Adiana Sklenarikova, Tomas Topfer, Lenka Holas Korinkova.

Fifth installment in helmer Dusan Klein’s serio-comic “Poets” series, which since 1982 has charted the fortunes of the restlessly romantic Stepan Safranek and his buddies, “Poets Never Lose Hope” finds the now-40 doctor seeking solace by trading in his 35-year-old g.f. for a younger woman. Auds familiar with the whole cycle will get more out of the pic than beginners, though it stands up well enough as a self-contained film. Already opened locally, where it found a loyal aud, pic has a catchy comic rhythm but, like the rest of the series, little hope of international readings.

First film in the series, “How the World Is Losing Poets,” began with the crew as horny teenagers, with Safranek discovering his gift for verse-making was a handy tool for picking up girls. Fourth seg, “The End of Poets in Bohemia…,” was 11 years ago, and the number of titles now equals Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel series. Klein’s “Poets” series takes the concept a tad further than Truffaut, whose pics starred Jean-Pierre Leaud, by also sticking with most of the same supporting players from film to film.

So, while “Poets Never Lose Hope” mainly limns how Safranek (Pavel Kriz) faces maturity by trading in g.f., career and car, pic also catches up with his old pal, TV-director Kendy (David Matasek), and with ambitious, permanently stubbled Karas (Lukas Vaculik), now the affluent owner of car dealership. Many minor characters are also brought back to see how the new millennium is treating them.

Pic opens with the funeral of Safranek’s mother, affording the chance to bring most of the regular cast on for a quick, explanatory catch up. Safranek feels the passion is waning from his relationship with Ute (Tereza Brodska), an enterprising pharmacy-owner. His eye is caught by striking redhead Anna (Michaela Badinkova), one of Ute’s student employees who also sings in a local rock band. Safranek starts helping Anna with her song lyrics and writing love poems, his usual method of seduction.

Meanwhile, Kendy, who’s been kicked out by his wife, Sylva (Lenka Holas Korinkova), moves in with Safranek and soon takes up with the shapely Slovakian landlady, Ms. Krasna (Adiana Sklenarikova), who runs a beauty parlor downstairs. When the director of the local hospital resigns, Safranek decides to apply for the job, encouraged by Karas. Last reel produces a change of life for the hero, but otherwise pic as whole puts across the phlegmatic notion that people’s souls never really change, even if times and circumstances do.

First films in the series turned lead actor Kriz, with his China-blue eyes and gentle mien, into a popular pin-up (flashbacks to earlier movies show him in his handsome youth, with an assortment of one-time lady friends). A running joke has characters affectionately likening him to Mick Jagger, although any similarity is more in Safranek’s priapic powers than in his physical appearance. Role puts little strain on the easygoing Kriz, who comes across less vividly than the thesps around him; still, ensemble work and comic timing are all in tune.

Klein’s helming is unobtrusive throughout, working in tandem with regular scripter Ladislav Pechacek’s tight script. Effect is somewhat reminiscent of upmarket soap opera, but with a proper ending.

Jittery, deliberately rough-hewn animation by Jaroslav Uhlir (also composer of some of the film’s songs) creates some eye-catching opening credits — but is less effective further into the film in showing Safranek and Anna having sex. Other tech credits are efficient.

Poets Never Lose Hope

Czech Republic

Production: A Bio Illusion, Pluto Film & Video production. (International sales: Eurocine, Paris.) Produced by Miroslav Smidmajer. Directed by Dusan Klein. Screenplay, Ladislav Pechacek.

Crew: Camera (color), Peter Bena; editor, Jan Svoboda; music, Jaroslav Uhlir; art director, Karel Vacek; costume designer, Iva Horakova; sound (Dolby Digital), Pavel Dvorak; animation, Uhlir. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (Czech Films 2003-2004), June 3, 2004. Running time: 114 MIN.

With: With: Pavel Kriz, David Matasek, Michaela Badinkova, Tereza Brodska, Lukas Vaculik, Josef Somr, Jana Hlavcova, Adiana Sklenarikova, Tomas Topfer, Lenka Holas Korinkova.

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