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  Intimate Lightning Play On
Year: 1965
Director: Ivan Passer
Stars: Zdenek Bezusek, Karel Blazek, Miroslav Cvrk, Vera Kresadlová, Dagmar Redinová, Jarolsava Stedra, Karel Uhlík, Vlastimila Vlková, Jan Vostrcil
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Petr (Zdenek Bezusek) is a cellist in a Prague orchestra, and his old pal Bambas (Karel Blazek) is a violinist in a provincial orchestra who have an important date coming up that the conductor is growing very stressed about, desperately wanting everything to go well and rehearsing the musicians vigorously, even if they do not share his anxiety. Before the big day, Petr goes off with his girlfriend Stepa (Vera Kresadlová) to visit Bambas and his family, but has there been a gulf opening up between them? Is Bambas actually bitter about the way their lives have gone?

Intimate Lightning was one of the warmest works of the Czech New Wave of the nineteen-sixties, and the second and final film in that country with writer-turned-director Ivan Passer at the helm before he emigrated to the United States when the poitical climate was well and truly clamping down on freedom of expression. However, if you're expecting something incendiary from this film, you might be let down, because there's little of the revolutionary fervour that would grip the land in the coming months in evidence here. This is far more all-encompassing.

Some would say all-forgiving in its take on human nature and all its ridiculousness. Intimni osvetleni, as it was called in its native country, is not a knee-slapper of a rip-roaring comedy, as it is mostly low key and quiet in its keenly observant manner, but while at first glance it looks to be very specific to a time and place, after a while, and the viewer grows used to its pace and characters, you can see a universality about its depictions of rural life, as after all these people have the same worries and connections across generations that everyone has to quite some extent.

Petr hopes to reconnect with Bambas, Bambas being the name he knew him by growing up and which amuses everyone who now knows him by his real name. And the way they do rekindle their companionship is through their love of music and the playing of it, something which becomes a running theme as all the personalities enjoy a good tune, whether they are playing it or listening to it. For example, they attend a funeral on Bambas' father's insistence, not to mourn but to hear the strains of their brass band which performs there, and all the way through someone will fall back on the comforts of music to soothe their concerns: it's almost a panacea for troubled emotions.

Meanwhile, Stepa (Kresadlová was the new wife of Passer's contemporary Milos Forman at the time) grows bored with this way of life, but where she could have turned petulant in other hands, here she succumbs to laughing fits over the dinner table or amuses herself with kittens. Even when it's clear that she is the one who will be taking up most of Petr's time in the future, she is no harridan, and her attitude makes Petr and Bambas's late night of getting drunk together all the more touching, because they might not get the chance to do so again. But the final scene is what the film has been carefully leading up to, at once hilarious and sad in a method of bringing out the daftness of these people we have been watching for the past hour, and of us for recognising ourselves in their behaviour. It's not earth-shattering, but Intimate Lightning is tender and affecting.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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