Up and Down

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Up and Down, a Czech film from director Jan Hrebejk (Divided We Fall), has two interconnecting plots: two separate and complicated stories that touch at certain points, in a manner that emphasizes randomness and the fact nothing is really under anyone’s control. It’s a post-totalitarian sensibility, wary and roughly humorous, where anything is liable to happen as long as it’s bad — which isn’t necessarily unrealistic.

The first story concerns Franta, an ex-con and skinhead soccer hooligan with a mushy speech defect that probably comes from being punched in the mouth once too often, and his mousy wife Mila who’s obsessed with having a baby. Mila is infertile, and Franta’s record means they can’t adopt, so they buy a black market baby from a shady pawnshop owner. The infant belongs to an illegal immigrant from India; the whole affair must be kept from both the law and Franta’s crypto-fascist soccer club, which would never accept him having a brown baby.

The second story is about a man named Martin who, after 20 years in Australia, returns home to visit his mother and ailing father. The parents are separated, the father living with his young mistress — who happens to be Martin’s ex-girlfriend — and their 18-year-old daughter. During a long reunion dinner with the four of them, Martin’s cantankerous mother ensures that the initial air of forced civility turns into one of unbridled grievance. Hrebejk and his co-writer Petr Jarchovsky have concocted an uneven but sadly funny film that, at its best moments, harks back to the mid-’60s golden age of the Czech cinema when this sort of funky social satire briefly flourished before the inevitable Soviet clampdown.

 

In Czech with English subtitles. Showing at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit) at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9, and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 10. Call 313-833-3237.

Richard C. Walls writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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