Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Warm-Hearted 'Kolya' Explores Family Ties

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Warm-Hearted 'Kolya' Explores Family Ties

Article excerpt

"Kolya" is the kind of modest, humane movie that rarely arrives on American screens, unless one of the more adventurous film companies has the imagination to "counterprogram" it against the comedies and fantasies that take up most of the space in multiplexes these days.

In terms of current moviegoing habits, it has several strikes against it. First, the dialogue is in Czech with English subtitles. Second, there's little sex and no violence at all.

Third, the story goes beyond lightweight drama and easygoing humor - although there's plenty of these - to explore social and political realities that affect its characters in important ways. It therefore requires more active thought than the average big-budget blockbuster. All this notwithstanding, "Kolya" is making a name for itself on the American scene. It was selected by the Czech Republic to compete for last year's Academy Award as best foreign-language film. Colorado's prestigious Telluride Film Festival presented its United States premiere. And now, just after winning a Golden Globe for best foreign-language film, it's enjoying a high-profile release from Miramax Films, a distributor willing to gamble on small non-American pictures. Its arrival in theaters during the dead of winter is no surprise, since this is one of the few seasons when audiences may be so overloaded with ordinary fare that they'll reach out for something a little different. Those who do are in for a pleasant surprise. The story centers on Louka, once a valued member of the Czech Philharmonic but now reduced to freelance cello gigs and occasional jobs restoring gravestones at the local cemetery. Times are hard for most people in Prague - the year is 1989, with the Soviet Union about to topple and Czechoslovakia's own Velvet Revolution still in the future - and Louka is getting tired of his chronic poverty. For a fee, he agrees to give up his confirmed bachelorhood and marry a Soviet woman who wants to acquire Czech credentials. …

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