A TV weatherman gets a bad case of the seven-year itch in “Shameless,” a smoothly shot and performed marital infidelity comedy from prolific Czech helmer Jan Hrebejk (“Divided We Fall,” “Beauty in Trouble”). Inspired by Michal Viewegh’s popular book “Short Stories About Marriage and Sex,” the home-turf hit sold nearly 500,000 ducats last fall. Slyly entertaining, the pic treats relationship issues in a way that should resonate with fest and cinematheque viewers abroad.

When fickle Oskar (Jiri Machacek) cheats on DJ wife Zuzana (Simona Babcakova) with their voluptuous Hungarian au pair (Eva Kerekesova), it triggers a complete turnaround for the couple. Oskar ultimately loses his job and winds up in a stereotype-challenging affair with aging chanteuse Nora (Emilia Vasaryova). Meanwhile, Oskar’s parents (Nina Diviskova, Pavel Landovsky) offer their beloved daughter-in-law some hilarious help in getting it on with new boyfriend Matej (Pavel Liska).

With longtime scribe Petr Jarkovsky tied up writing “Citizenship Card” for the pair’s former producer, Ondrej Trojan, to direct, Hrebejk teamed with novelist and screenwriter Michal Viewegh (who penned hits such as “The Wonderful Years That Sucked,” “Holiday Makers” and “From Subway With Love”) and producers Rudolf Biermann and Tomas Hoffman. While the cleverly detailed screenplay, to which Hrebejk and Machacek contributed, may not be dramatically profound, the contempo-relationships rollercoaster it depicts strikes a universal chord, and the result fits neatly within the director’s oeuvre.

As usual, Hrebejk proves a master of ironic tone and a confident visual stylist. Here he gives the accoutrements of modern life — cell phones, scooters and tabloid newspapers — their own comic roles.

The talented ensemble cast, most Hrebejk regulars, hit all the right notes to create nuanced, recognizable characters, while the good-looking Prague-set production features topnotch contributions from Hrebejk’s usual crew. Editor Vladimir Barak skillfully juggles the various plot threads to bring the pic in at a sleek 88 minutes, the shortest-ever running time for a Hrebejk film.

Meanwhile, Hrebejk and Jarchovsky already have resumed their collaboration and started shooting on “Kawasaki’s Roses,” skedded for release in spring 2010.


Czech Republic

  • Production: A Falcon release of an In Film Praha, Infinity Prague production, co-produced by RWE, with the support of Sony Ericsson, Nova, HBO. (International sales: Menemsha Films, Venice, Calif.) Produced by Rudolf Biermann, Tomas Hoffman. Directed by Jan Hrebejk. Screenplay, Michal Viewegh, Hrebejk, Jiri Machacek.
  • Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Jan Malir; editor, Vladimir Barak, music, Archivni; art director, Milan Bycek; costume designer, Katarina Bielokova; sound (Dolby Digital), Robert Dufek. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (Czech Films 2008-2009), July 3, 2009. Running time: 88 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Jiri Machacek, Emilia Vasaryova, Pavel Liska, Simona Babcakova, Nina Diviskova, Pavel Landovsky, Krystof Mucha, Eva Kerekesova. (Czech, Slovak dialogue)