Monday, April 09, 2007

Double Feature

I saw Happy Feet twice this weekend--Saturday with friends, Sunday with my mother. Had I realized Mom wanted to see it, I wouldn’t have returned it to the video store. As it was, I rented it twice.

Happy Feet is a very cute, but very strange movie. It’s like they put March of the Penguins, Moulin Rouge, and Footloose in a blender, then added a cup of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the obligatory dash of preachy social commentary. (No recent American children's movie seems to be complete without the latter.) I obviously liked it, or else I wouldn’t have watched it twice. The penguins are so incredibly cute!

Mom and I also watched Pelišky, a Czech movie I first saw two years ago on a rainy day in Moravia, when we rented videos and stayed inside. It’s set during the Prague Spring, a brief period of about eight months in 1968 when a kinder, gentler form of Socialism (“with a human face”) took root in Czechoslovakia. The movie focuses on the love triangle between a group of teenagers and the (in my opinion) infinitely more interesting relationships among their parents. It’s a comedy right up until the end, when the truth of history puts a tragic cap on the story. The hardline Communists of the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries invaded Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968, to force their particularly nasty form of Communism onto the Czechs. The movie ends with a dedication to the effect of, “To all those whose friends, lovers, and families disappeared overnight, while they remained behind.” The first time I saw it, I was with several Czech people, and watching it now, I can still remember one of them nodding during the invasion scene and saying, “I remember that.” I cried during this viewing just as I did then.

Although I really enjoyed both movies, I have to admit that Happy Feet and Pelišky make for a really bizarre double feature.

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