Karlovy Vary: The Winners

As expected, “The Investigator” proved to be a tough sell. I was pleased that it was the favorite of one other juror, but it wasn't enough. So be it; on to the other contenders.

One film did not enter the discussion: “The Guitar” by Amy Redford, Robert’s daughter. Though “well received” at Sundance (no doubt by Redford himself, that Festival’s founder) according to its publicity, it did not impress anyone in the jury, except maybe negatively. Saffron Burrows, a frequent guest at Karlovy Vary (she conducted a “master class” this time around) plays Melody, a Manhattan woman diagnosed (by Janeane Garafolo, no less) with terminal throat cancer (it gives Burrows a chance to show off her Godfather imitation). Her solution? Shopping. She moves into a huge empty loft, takes off all her clothes (rebirth! and also a chance for her to parade around naked for about 15 minutes) and hits the phone, ordering tons of top of the line designer label furniture, clothes, accessories. And takeout -- we need that distraught female eating scene, though this time there’s no Haagen Daz. For companionship, she sleeps with the delivery people. The moral? Maybe Redford is suggesting maxing out your credit card as a cancer treatment. It’s worth a try.

Nor did “Terribly Happy,” win. As a consolation it won the Grand Jury Prize and $30,000 (all we offer is everlasting glory and maybe a beer after the awards ceremony). Zhang Chi’s “The Shaft,” a meticulously arty but basically kitschy exercise in photogenic miserablism, another contender, didn't win either.

Then there were two: “The Captive,” previously mentioned, and Czech director Petr Zelenka’s “The Karamazovs.” Czech, please! “Karamazovs” wins.

Heres our “motivation” for picking it: “…for translating Dostoevsky’s great moral fable into an ingenious fusion of theater, film, literature and real life..” It’s a quasi-documentary about a Prague Theater group performing a stage version of the novel in a Polish factory as a way of reaching out to the common people and integrating their art with their lives. The adaption is rather brilliant as are the performances and the use of the setting very inventive. As for the fictional frame stories -- their interaction with a worker whose son just died, etc.  -- a little weak. But it has the intellectual rigor and wit of such similar exercises as “Marat/Sade” and “Vanya on 42nd St.” A good choice if I do say so myself.

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