Joseph Kilián & The White Dove

Second Run DVD double bill: Joseph Kilián (Pavel Jurácek, 1965) and The White Dove (Frantisek Vlacil - Marketa Lazarova, 1960)

Rating: 4/5

Reviewed by Dave Lancaster

Summary:
These medium-length Czech masterworks possess that rare cocktail of cinematic traits in that they are epic in scope and intimate in nature.





Not quite shorts and not quite features, with a combined runtime of 115 minutes, Second Run DVD have released a tantalising taster of the Czechoslovak New Wave: a fantastic double bill of two underseen Czech films from master directors, namely 'The White Dove' (1960, directed by Frantisek Vlácil of 'Marketa Lazarová' fame) and Josef Kilián (helmed by Pavel Jurácek & Jan Schmidt, 1965).

The debut of František Vláčil, 'The White Dove', came seven years before his pioneering middle ages drama 'Marketa Lazarová' and it's evident that like Kubrick and Nolan his eye for a detailed composition was evident early on.



The plot is deceptively simple and somewhat akin to Albert Lamorisse's 'The Red Balloon'. It charts a racing pigeon that ends up in Prague instead of its owner’s Baltic island after veering off course. Populated with amateur child actors and little in the way of lasting dialogue, this is a gentle vacation for your senses, a warming delight that captures poetry in motion if only for a short while. What it lacks in an edge, it makes up for in warmth.

Next up is Jan Schmidt and Pavel Juráček’s far more offbeat 'Josef Kilián'. As you'd expect with a title that nods firmly towards to beleagured hero of 'The Trial', 'Josef Kilián' is drenched in Kafka influences. Our leading man is faced with a ridiculous level of bureaucracy and red tape when a building he's running vanishes into thin air.



A sharp anti-authoritarian comment of life under communism, this mini-masterpiece was apparently 'banned forever' after the Soviet invasion of 1969.

As a double bill, these two don't really blend into one with any degree of ease but they do, instead, serve as a reminder of just how diverse and bold the Czechoslovak New Wave cinema movement really was. And once again, Second Run DVD have delivered the goods by plucking drastically underseen classics out of obscurity and into the public eye. The DVD is out now and comes well recommended.



Second Run DVD are also responsible for releasing The Frantisek Vlácil DVD Collection - a four disc box set containing three films and an exclusive documentary. The films included are 1967's 'Marketa Lazarova', 1968's 'The Valley of the Bees' and 1970's 'Adelheid' - the first two of which featured in Sight and Sound's most recent once-every-10-years list of the top 250 films ever made. And indeed they should be - such power and vitality in filmmaking is a seldom seen pleasure. They possess that rare cocktail of cinematic traits in that they are epic in scope and intimate in nature. They play out like a Middle Ages version of Welles' 'The Trial' thanks to that retina-searing cinematography, desperate performances and relentless urge to probe between the lines of a brilliantly crafted script. 

Whether you start with this box set (or the films individually also via Second Run) or with this double bill, greatness is in your grasp at an excellent price.

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