Black Peter (Milos Forman / Czechoslovakia, 1964):
(Cerný Petr; Peter and Pavla)

"Entry of the Gladiators" and rock 'n roll, just the overture for the grocery store that is provincial Czechoslovakia in the early Sixties. (Middle-aged female employees enter one by one behind the credits, one or two beam right at the camera.) "A self-service store with complete faith in customers," still the sullen young trainee (Ladislav Jakim) gets inspector duties, he patrols the aisles feebly and is defeated by an elderly shoplifter. Awkward flirtations with the tomboy (Pavla Martinkova) in a casual little spoof of Bergman's Summer with Monika, at the beach the would-be rival (Vladimír Pucholt) can't quite keep his trunks from dropping—so it goes with the gaffes and caprices of adolescent limbo, surveyed by Milos Forman in vivacious proximity to Truffaut and Olmi. A peephole in the dressing cabana, violin and accordion for a clumsy chanteuse in a nearly empty restaurant, a vérité flow of cozy and ironic observation. Pacing up and down and laboring to sound sage, the protagonist's father (Jan Vostrcil) is practically William Demarest in a Preston Sturges skit. ("Stay close to the food to stay far from the grave," he huffs at the disinterested offspring.) The centerpiece is an extended sock-hop sewn from a hundred crisscrossing glances: The lad finding a corner to practice his dance moves, a couple grown sozzled and bellicose, the lunk falling asleep at his table, all a draft for the sardonic communal swarms of Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball. The reclining Olympia poster is part of the education ("They talk of socialism, then ask the boy to deliver smut!"), the discourse between generations ends with the Old Guard frozen mid-rant, cp. Reisz's We Are the Lambeth Boys. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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