Sunday, June 23, 2024

Vražda ing. Čerta / Murdering the Devil (2023 restoration by Karlovy Vary International Film Festival)

Ester Krumbachová: Vražda ing. Čerta / Murdering the Devil (CZ 1970) with Jiřina Bohdalová as Ona = She.

CZ 1970. Director: Ester Krumbachová. Sog., Scen.: Ester Krumbachová. F.: Jirí Macák. M.: Miroslav Hájek. Scgf.: Boris Moravec. Mus.: Angelo Michajlov. Int.: Jiřina Bohdalová (Ona = She), Vladimír Menšík, (signor Čert = Devil), Ljuba Hermanová (Miriam), Helena Ruzicková (Helena Ruzicková). Prod.: Filmové studio Barrandov. DCP. D.: 75’. Col.
    Copy from NFA
    Restored in 4K in 2023 by Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in collaboration with Národní filmový archiv and Státní Fond Kinematografie at UPP and Soundsquare Studios laboratories, from the original image and sound negatives. Funding provided by Milada Kučerová and Eduard Kučera
    In Czech with English subtitles by Alex Zucker, e-subtitles in Italian by Ada Caterina Nanni.
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna 2024: Recovered and Restored.
    Introduced by Marie Barešová (Národní filmový archiv)
    Viewed at Cinema Lumière - Sala Scorsese, 23 June 2024

Martin Šrajer (Bologna Catalogue 2024): " “We live and operate in a man’s world. That’s why we as women are like guests. Of course, this could be an advantage for us, because we can mock the male world more easily,” Ester Krumbachová said in an interview with A. J. Liehm. The Czech set designer, costume designer, screenwriter and director did not consider herself a feminist, but deconstructing patriarchal structures was a lifelong mission for her – as it was for her friend Věra Chytilová. The battle of the sexes was also the subject of her only directorial effort Vražda ing. Čerta. "

" The simple plot woven from many fairytale archetypes consists of a series of meetings in the apartment of the nameless protagonist. A friend she hasn’t seen in years, engineer Bohouš Čert [Devil in Czech], arrives. While she lovingly prepares a feast of many courses, he just sips, munches and grunts without restraint. And still he isn’t satisfied. The more empty plates and chewed-up furniture legs he leaves behind, the more his hostess is horrified. But she still dreams that the visitor from hell will rescue her from her boring, lonely life, so she lets Devil invade her privacy again and again. She only keeps him away from the fridge, her Pandora’s box… "

" With previous projects, Krumbachová could only use a fraction of her skills. On Vražda ing. Čerta she embraced everything she was fascinated by and excelled at. She herself gave form to a detailed mise-en-scène with a touch of Art Nouveau and occultism, sewed the clothes, made the jewellery, designed the furniture, and even prepared the food that conveys more meaning than the dialogue. The film passed censorship and was allowed to premiere in September 1970. However, artistic opportunities of Krumbachová, who collaborated on many politically problematic films of the Czechoslovak New Wave, were gradually cut down. She never made another film. This visually opulent parable about male and female roles not only launched but also ended the directorial filmography of this Renaissance woman. " Martin Šrajer (Bologna Catalogue 2024)

AA: "Between two evils I always pick the one I never tried before", said Mae West. 

But Ona (= She) (Jiřina Bohdalová, born in 1931 and still with us) invites the devil she knows, Engineer Čert (= Devil) (Vladimír Menšík, 1929-1988).

Perhaps she believes that she can change him with her attractions, most importantly, lavish multi-course meals. Mr. Čert does gorge himself thoroughly, paying no attention to table manners, elementary courtesy or even clean dress. He is the Chauvinist Pig incarnate.

It is about time to pay tribute to Ester Krumbachová (1923-1996), a key talent in the Czech New Wave of the 1960s, including in the movies of Oldřich Lipský whose playfulness is relevant also here, Otakar Vávra, Jan Němec, Karel Kachyňa, Jaromil Jireš, and particularly Věra Chytilová. Murdering the Devil has profound affinities with the crazy world of Daisies, whose co-screenwriter, creative consultant and costume designer Krumbachová was. Both Daisies and Murdering the Devil are also films relevant to feminism.

In Murdering the Devil, Krumbachová appears as a total film-maker: director, screenwriter and costume designer. Her touch is evident in every detail, including make-up, hair design, jewel design and food design. From Marie Barešová's introduction we learned that Krumbachová was a great cook, and Murdering the Devil earns a place in anthologies of cinema and cooking.

It is a design-driven movie, exquisite, ornate, staging an artificial paradise welcoming the Devil. It is unique and unforgettable. But sometimes the Devil can be in the detail.

The 4K restoration is impeccable. That it is also slightly airless and missing photochemical juiciness may be intentional.

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