The Catfish Summer

Though too wispily silly to travel far, pic is light fest fare that's already a popular DVD item at home.

With:
With: Petr Ctvrtnicek, Josef Polacek, Rudolf Hrusinsky, Jiri Labus, Pavel Simcik, Magdalena Sidonova, Hynek Chmelar, Leos Noha, Kristina Farkasova, Josef Rosen.

Effectively reeling in the mellow rural surrealism for which Czech cinema is known, “The Catfish Summer” follows one city-dweller’s adventures casting for pic’s titular fish and interacting with locals. Though too wispily silly to travel far, pic is light fest fare that’s already a popular DVD item at home after kicking “The Can” from B.O. pole position last fall.

Leasing his flat to a clutch of Vietnamese, Jarda (Petr Ctvrtnicek) takes off for his annual pilgrimage as proprietor of the Tropicana Bar, where signage announces “Menu: beer.” The pub is the lone structure overlooking bucolic Angel’s Lake in the Bohemian wilderness, so Jarda’s only customers are simple locals and agitated city folk — the latter waylaid by cleverly repositioned road signs.

Plot revolves around individual character foibles, a beer tap that gives an electric shock when touched due to a short circuit, and a huge catfish nicknamed Lojza that has eaten the dog of half-crazed caretaker Vrtilek (Rudolf Hrusinsky) and attracted the attention of a cocky fisherman (Jiri Labus).

“In this battle of wits, you’re not even a hostage,” someone sneers, and that’s the approximate level of the banter throughout. Nonetheless, debuting helmer Michal Krajnak displays firm comic timing, with cast benefiting from precise turns by wily vets Hrusinsky and Labus.

Tech package sparkles, due primarily to Martin Matiasek’s amber-hued widescreen lensing. Lojza himself may not hold a candle to Bruce the Shark, but “The Catfish Summer” has just enough comic bite to leave a mark.

The Catfish Summer

Czech Republic

Production: A Bioscop release (in the Czech Republic) of a Fog'n'Desire Films, FV Plast production. (International sales: Fog'n'Desire Films, Prague.) Produced by Viktor Taus. Executive producers, Olga Detaryova, Michal Krajnak. Co-producers, Frantisek Vondracek, Petr Chajda, Michal Sabrsula. Directed by Michal Krajnak. Screenplay, Viktor Csudai, Krajnak, Viktor Taus.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Martin Matiasek; editor, Csudai; music, Walter Kraft; production designer, Miroslav Dusa; costume designer, Lucie Hahnova; sound (Dolby Digital), Lukas Moudry. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, April 19, 2008. (In Finale Pilzen Film Festival.) Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With: Petr Ctvrtnicek, Josef Polacek, Rudolf Hrusinsky, Jiri Labus, Pavel Simcik, Magdalena Sidonova, Hynek Chmelar, Leos Noha, Kristina Farkasova, Josef Rosen.

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