Jan 16, 2011

23rd Jan 2011; The Shop On Main Street

The Shop on Main Street
A film by Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos
Year ; 1965
Country : Czechoslovakia
Slovak/ German with English sub titles
Runtime: 128 minutes
23rd Jan 2011; 5.45 pm
Perks Mini Theater

The Shop on Main Street is filled with so many perfectly realized scenes, and so much lovingly observed human interaction, that it reminds us of the kind of honesty the best movies can achieve. The film’s two stars, Josef Kroner and Ida Kaminska, are unexcelled, and form the most charismatically mix-matched star team in memory.
Kroner’s performance is miraculous, economical and tortured as Tono struggles against the coming devastation of his town, his friends, and his soul.
The Shop on Main Street remind us that most movies are emotional frauds, relying on tired tricks to wring feelings from an over stimulated audience. To see this movie is to be in the company of artists who trust their material, and trust the imagination, intelligence, and compassion of their audience.
Racism is looked at deeply and provocatively in this revealing film. During the last World War, a small town in Slovakia was turned into a crucible Fascist state by the Nazis. Locals run everything and there are no Germans in sight. It concerns a not too pretty and mean little man who harbors a resentment against the local Nazis though he does nothing about it.
His own brother-in-law is the town police head and he is given the right to take over the store of an old Jewish woman by his relative when plans for deporting the Jews are well developed. She has lost her husband in the last war and all that is left is this little shop.
When the deportations start she is somehow forgotten and he decides he will do something to hide her. The end has him going through divided outlooks about what to do, both wanting to help her but fearing reprisals.
This is all done with a non-rancorous flair sans any hysterical overtone. This makes it even more poignant. It becomes a statement on how racism can be bred by oversight, plain laziness or general apathy. Directors Jan Kadar and Elmar Klos have built this carefully, and have given a good feel of the times and personalities before the drama erupts.
In contrast to the tragic denouement of the film, The Shop on Main Street closes on a idyllic, dreamlike sequence, showing the smiling shopkeeper and clerk walking together through the countryside, free from all danger and fear.

Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos

Czech director Ján Kadár (1918 - 1979) was of Jewish extraction himself, but claimed he rarely encountered anti - Semitism during his lifetime. He was born on April 1, 1918, in the same year that Czechoslovakia achieved independence in the aftermath of World War I's end and the dissolution of the Austro - Hungarian empire. As a young man, he studied law in the Slovak capital of Bratislava, but abandoned it to pursue photography by 1938.

The Munich Agreement that same year, between Nazi Germany and other western European nations, gave tacit approval for Germany's invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Czechoslovakia's Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps, and at one point Kadár ran afoul of authorities and spent time in a labor camp himself in the early 1940s. After the war's end, Czechoslovakia became a Communist Party - dominated socialist republic, closely allied with the Soviet Union. Kadár moved into the re - emerging film industry, and became a producer and director at the Bratislava Studio of Short Films.

In 1946 Kadár joined the highly regarded Barrandov Studios in Prague, sometimes called the "Hollywood of the East." There he was a scriptwriter and assistant director, and directed his first feature film, Katka (Cathy), in 1950.

At Barrandov Kadár had met Elmar Klos, and the two began a collaboration in 1952 that would endure for much of their career inside Czechoslovakia. In 1965, signs of a new cultural and political movement in Czechoslovakia were emerging. Certain restrictions had loosened, and the arts began to flourish. Kadár's Obchod na korze (The Shop on Main Street) was released in 1965 and became one of the first products of the Czech New Wave to win international acclaim. Kadár borrowed the story from a novel by Ladislav Grosman called The Trap, and worked with Klos to adapt the novel for the screenplay.

In August of 1968 Soviet tanks rolled across the borders. The brief era known as that year's "Prague Spring" abruptly ended, as did the groundbreaking works from the country's films studios. Kadár left Czechoslovakia, setting first in Vienna and later in Los Angeles. At the time of the Soviet invasion, he and Klos were working on a Czech - American production called Adrift. After some movie ventures in Hollywood, Kadár spent the rest of the decade making mostly television films.

Kadár died on June 1, 1979, in Los Angeles. Elmar Klos passed away on 31st July 1993 in Czechoslovakia.

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