Valerie's Week of Wonders

Czechoslovakia, 1970
Original title: Valerie a týden divu
Director: Jaromil Jires
Starring: Jaroslava Schallerová, Helena Anýzová, Petr Kopriva
IMDB: 7.2

The late 60s / early 70s were the golden age for tripped out, weird and experimental movies. LSD had recently hit the scene, taking music and art to a whole new cosmic level of artistic freedom and creativity. Unfortunately it was not to last, as reality set in and commercialism took over.

Avant-garde films from this period are unique both for their style and for their groundbreaking disregard for convention, and this film is a prime example. Additionally, it was made in Czechoslovakia - which for me at least, makes it quite an obscurity.

The film starts off with godawful opening titles, interspersed with soft-focus mini-vignettes of a beautiful young girl that made me think I was watching something from the studios of David Hamilton. Mind you, maybe the whole soft-focus thing was not then the soft-porn cliche it has become today.



In any case, soon enough the movie proper starts and we're thrown directly into Bat Country as a series of seemingly random and inexplicable events occurs. At this stage I'm wondering if the movie has any semblance of linear narrative whatsoever, or whether I should be looking for clues that its all a dream ... or something.

And in fact, I think that's probably the point. The movie plays like a pubescent girl's dream. People morph into other people, locations abruptly change, things don't necessarily make sense, there's lots of sex going on, and sometimes there are monsters.

Yeah... that about sums it up.



Valerie is played by precocious 14 year-old Jaroslava Schallerova, playing a young sexpot that would probably attract controversy were it made today. While the sex and nudity factor is mostly implied, there is no shortage of visual and contextual innuendo - with Valerie having a noticable penchant for eating erotically, peekaboo glances, lesbian tendencies and a disturbing disregard for incest. Obviously, this may make some people uncomfortable given the age of the actress.

While the main theme of the movie seems to be the coming of age of a young woman, its loosely set within a Vampire theme as well. Undoubtedly there are more symbolic messages to be discovered that a casual first viewing will miss (and may also be lost a little in translation). I look forward to what a second viewing will uncover.



In summary, the film is a dreamlike, raunchy Alice in Wonderland on acid. It's sometimes slow, sometimes weird, often sexy, and almost always puzzling - but certainly an interesting and unique film with stunning imagery. For lovers of surreal and visually spectacular films, this is not only a must-see, but a must-own.

Rating: 9/10

Screenshots - click to enlarge




Trailer




Quick Links

I can highly recommend the Remastered R2 DVD - comes with a pretty interesting booklet, and is a very nice package all round. I wish there were a Blu-ray - but that's fairly unlikely, at least in the foreseeable future - so for now the R2 DVD is the best version available.


R2 DVD RemasterR1 DVD


8 comments:

Alex said...

Cool review- I'm definitely seeing this!

TWISTED FLICKS said...

Hope you enjoy it Alex ... look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Systematicer said...

One of my absolute favorite films. It certainly has an abstract narrative that - in my understanding - concerns a sexually awakening girl that suddenly sees the world in a new way. Her once child-like understanding of society, gender, authority and religion changes drastically. As a blossoming woman other people now also see her and treat her differently and she has to learn how to deal with this new, often threatening situation to eventually find her place in the world and in society as a young woman.

Apart from the splendid sometimes dreamy, sometimes nightmarish audio-visual experience what I really find great is its thematic richness. Just to list some of those themes:

-Men are women-corrupting pigs,
-society is everyone's corrupter,
-men are feeling threatened by independent women and as a result demonize them,
-man is ruthlessly feeding off of nature as long he has even just the smallest of benefits from it,
-we are doomed to play our roles in life, depending on in which stage of life (=age) we are,
-the eternal recurrence
-conflicts between genders
-the hypocrisy of church
-sexuality corrupted by hierarchical structures

TWISTED FLICKS said...

Hi Systematica, thanks for your comments! I think you've summed it up well, and you've reminded me to give this a 2nd viewing. It's certainly an incredible film.

Systematicer said...

You don't remember me, then. We had the closest matching lists on YMDb and conversed occasionally. By chance I saw your name on IMDb next to a link of your 'Cold Fish' review, and sure enough it was you judging by your favorite films.

My taste in film developed quite a bit in the last couple of years, of course the films I loved back then I still love. It would be reductive to pinpoint that development to one film but if I had to pick one I'd say that it began with 'Valerie and Her Week of Wonders', actually. Since around the time I saw that one I tend to take things a lot less literally, and by now I really have little interest in plot for plot's sake. I'm no avant-garde junkie, though, I still prefer to have some kind of narrative that holds it all together.

I also watch a lot of low-budget, exploitation and B-movies although I'm less interested in the extreme and more in the (cinematically) unconventional. I got a lot more into Japanese cinema this year so it's not that much of a coincidence that I discovered your blog now. I like what you have done with the place. ;) You do an especially great job on the screenshots, just from looking at those I'm tempted to seek out almost all the films you reviewed.

TWISTED FLICKS said...

You're right - your nick didn't ring a bell, but it should have! Well, great to be back in touch :) I remember you trying to convince me to give the Matrix sequels a reconsideration - which I am still in the process of doing actually.

I'm glad you left some comments though, as it reminded me I needed to fix up my screenshots. A mixup with my phone a while back deleted most of them. So I spent 6 hours yesterday restoring a bunch - but I'm probably still only a quarter way through doing that!

Taste in film is a constantly evolving thing - one thing leads to another and before you know it you're finding artistic merit in nunsploitation flicks ;) It's fun hunting down lesser known films though, and my patience with cliche blockbuster movies has dwindled next to zero. On here I try to keep my reviews within the remit of this blog - ie: "twisted" being the operative word, so I rarely review anything mainstream even I did happen to like it.

Interesting to hear you're into Japanese flicks these days ... it's the lion's share of what I watch now too, and there's just sooo many.

Anyway, by all means throw in your opinion to any of the reviews - half the reason I write them is to hear new ideas, and be turned on to stuff I haven't seen yet.

Systematicer said...

Yeah, well, and I STILL haven't watched 'Ichi the Killer' ;) Funny you should mention 'The Matrix', I thought maybe you wrote this but I guess not: http://thematrix101.com/contrib/myoung_aitptm.php
Your name, self-chosen or not, is way too generic to make you unique on the internet.

I saw the anime 'Serial Experiments: Lain' (1998) this year and it almost made the whole Matrix trilogy look pretty pale in comparison in terms of complexity and the themes it explores. Not that I care to bash The Matrix now or anything but damn, that anime was an experience.

>my patience with cliche blockbuster movies has dwindled next to zero<
I hear you. Not that I ever was crazy about generic stuff that feels like it's just going through the motions but these days it can get downright excruciating sitting through many of them even if maybe it does a passable job at doing its by-the-numbers thing.

I have to admit I still haven't gotten around to delving into nunsploitation but I'll get there sooner or later, right now I just have a good share of special interests with more than enough films to explore in those fields, as you said, one thing leads to another and ones interests constantly develop and change.

I noticed you love 'Memories of Matsuko', so would I be right to assume you have seen 'Kamikaze Girls'? They are both great, as is the director's 'Confessions', but 'Kamikaze Girls' was my favorite, crazy, stylish and enormous fun.

And hey, 'Hell Ride'! Is that the Larry Bishop film? I actually really wasn't crazy about that one but thought 'Mad Dog Time' was great fun.

Also nice to see you list "vampire movies" among interests, for whatever reason I really got into them in the past few years, with a nice handful of very diverse vampire flicks ending up as big personal favorites.

I'll keep reading more of your reviews and will try to comment on the films I've seen, even if maybe I have little to say about them.

TWISTED FLICKS said...

Yeah Kamikaze Girls was the first movie I saw by him, and have since made sure to watch his other movies. I really liked KG, but I thought Matsuko was just epic.

Hell Ride is the Larry Bishop one - I really liked it. I just thought it had the right spirit and had a piss-taking humour to it. It got bashed for its poor dialogue by many people, which I think was completely missing the point that it was meant to be bad. And to my ears it was bad in a pretty clever way :)

I haven't seen Mad Dog Time yet - good cast though!

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