Late August at the Hotel Ozone (1967); Jan Schmidt, director.

Set in the feral wastelands of a post-nuclear Earth, LAATHO features a band of young, hot women who know nothing of civilization. They are led by an Earth Mother as they scrounge for food and shelter. Sounds like an exploitation picture, and while there are moments of adventure, this is more of a heavy, heady trip.

It ends up in a dilapidated luxury hotel and that’s when things really get dark.

Toys In The Attic (2009); Jiri Barta, director.

Toy Story. It’s nice and all, but this is the real deal.

One of the craftiest and most clever pieces of stop motion animation I have ever seen, this film about toys who come to life when there are no humans around (hey – it’s a device!) is jaw-dropping in its meticulous design. It is the anti-Pixar, intentionally lo-fi, all leading to an adventure of good toys outsmarting bad toys. It makes remarkable use of found objects, claymation, drawing and a live action cat.

Please, for the love of us all, hunt this movie down. It is also known as In The Attic and Who Has A Birthday Today? if you are having trouble.

Extra points; Jiri Barta also made a terrific version of Pied Piper in 1986 (using a lot of wood cuts) that is also worth tracking down.

I Served The King of England (2006); Jiri Menzel, director.

As I mentioned before, this was all inspired by Jiri Menzel’s Closely Watched Trains, so I’d be a jerk if I didn’t represent him in some way. His most recent film is a strange allegory (at least I hope it was an allegory) about Capitalism and how the drive to succeed can lead good men toward evil.

A diminutive, somewhat Chaplin-esque bartender has but one desire: to be rich. His mostly-forgivable, scampy road to success eventually makes him a Nazi collaborator. What is odd is how the film never condemns him, just shows him as being a bit of a lovable klutz. It is an unsettling feeling to laugh at a fortune built on stolen goods from deported Jews, but our hero isn’t intentionally malicious.

Also: I Served The King of England has some of the stranger scenes mixing sexual perversity and food I’ve ever seen. It is a weird picture that I’m not 100% sure works, but there’s an indelicate essence that, I think, is central to so much of what makes Menzel a unique voice.

Daisies (1966); Vera Chytilova, director.

If Czechoslovakia had an Easy Rider it was this surrealist tale of two hot women spitting in the eye of bourgeois culture. It is considered the essential text of the Czech New Wave and, hell, I’m not going to lie to you. . .I saw this in college in the “right frame of mind” and barely remember it at all, other than it was wild.

But looking at the clip above has inspired me to track it down as it has, I’m sure, done to some of you.

I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest authority on Czech cinema – please, if there’s stuff I left out, let me know in the comments below. My queue on GreenCine can use a refresh!

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