(aka 'A Report on the Party and the Guests' or 'The Party and the Guests')

Directed by Jan Nemec
Czechoslovakia 1966

One of the most controversial Czech films of its era, Jan Němec's second feature was completed in 1966, belatedly released during the short-lived liberalisation of early 1968 but formally "banned forever" in 1973, a decree that remained in force until the Velvet Revolution of 1989 (at least in Czechoslovakia). The widespread assumption, very much shared by Antonín Novotný, the Czechoslovak President at the time of production, was that the film was a direct attack on the Communist government and therefore too dangerous to show.

To be fair to Novotný and his equally censorious successors, this impression has also been widely assumed in the West, aided and abetted by its two official English titles. A literal translation of O slavnosti a hostech, stripping out articles and ambiguity, would be something like 'About Celebration and Guests'. However, both British and American versions translate 'slavnost' as 'the party', which the rules of English title capitalisation turn into 'the Party', an unhelpfully loaded term. The American title, A Report on the Party and the Guests, goes further still, suggesting that the film itself has been commissioned by some unnamed agency (possibly with links to the secret police) to be used as evidence in an impending prosecution of its unwitting protagonists. This certainly doesn't counter the film's spirit, but it does tend to narrow its focus.

It's actually closer to an absurdist satire, squarely in line with one of the most fashionable theatrical movements of the day. Originated by the Irish-born Samuel Beckett and Romanian-born Eugene Ionesco in Paris in the 1950s, it travelled particularly well to Czechoslovakia - unsurprisingly, as absurd humour is very much a Czech trait. The very different works of Franz Kafka and Jaroslav Hasek demonstrate this to perfection, as do the plays of Němec's distant cousin (and future President) Václav Havel, whose bureaucratic satire The Memorandum (Vyrozumení,1965) mocked attempts at streamlining the language of workplace communication.

Comparisons have also been drawn between Němec's films and the more overtly Surrealist work of Luis Bunuel. Němec's first feature Diamonds of the Night (1964) not only depicted one of its protagonist's faces crawling with ants in overt homage to Un Chien Andalou, but also blithely intercut dream and reality without distinguishing the two. Though Němec would not see the first until the 1970s, and the second wouldn't be made till then, The Party and the Guests can be bookended very neatly by The Exterminating Angel (El ángel exterminador, 1962) and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie, 1972). Indeed, either of Bunuel's titles could conceivably be reapplied to Němec's film when thinking of the far-reaching powers of its white-clad, deeply sinister 'host', or the discreetly charming picnickers who are generally content to go along with the film's increasingly bizarre events (even if it means denouncing a former companion).

Excerpt from Michael Brooke's comments at SecondRunDVD.com located HERE

(also available in its complete for in the liner notes booklet of the DVD)

U.S. Poster

Theatrical Release: September 19th, 1966

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DVD Review: Second Run - Region 0 - PAL

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Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL
Runtime 1:07:34 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.63 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Czech (Dolby Digital mono) 
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Second Run DVD

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Featurette: An Appreciation by Peter Hames (12:09)
• Image Gallery
• 20-page liner notes booklet with photos and essay by Michael Brooke

DVD Release Date: March 5th, 2007

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 10

 

Comments:

This is a single-layered, but progressively transferred effort from Second Run whom we continue to admire for their clandestine and important film selections. I have found no evidence that the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 is incorrect and composition tends to support this. Detail and contrast look very good. Occasional digital artifacts (faux-grain) are present but not to any degree that impinges extensively on normal viewing. Audio had moments of weakness but the subtitles appear complete and without gaps. I honestly imagine that this is the best you will probably see this film digitally-speaking.

Supplements include an image gallery, a 20-page liner notes booklet and a highly interesting appreciation featurette by Peter Hames. Second Run have treated us to another masterpiece of the Czech New Wave with this astute political satire on Communism/Socialism. There are also elements defining the human condition with some surrealistic curiosities. A very unique, Buńuel-ian, film that we recommend. 

Gary W. Tooze

 



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CLICK to order from:

Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL




 

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