"Movie Magazine International" Review

(Air Date: Week Of 02/05/97)

By Mary Weems

Kolya, the Czech film that garnered a Golden Globe Award for best foreign film, takes a Sean Connery look alike, Zdenek Sverak, and some ol' timey, but not timeless, cinematic cliches, and tries to give them credibility by setting them in the context of perestroika during the months leading up to the Czech 'Velvet Revolution' against the Soviets in 1989.

The main character is Louka, a professional cellist, once a member of the Czech National Symphony, who is now, for political reasons, reduced to laying for funerals at a cremtorium. At fifty-five, he's a worldweary playboy, broke, and alone, having never married because he thought domesticity would interfere with his life as a musician.

He's still pursuing his lifetime interest in chasing skirts-this dated phrase perfectly describes the attitude of the film. By the way, the actor playing Louka also wrote the screenplay, and one detects a little wish fulfillment here. In the opening scene at a funeral at the crematorium, he lifts the soprano's skirt with his cello bow while she sings The Lord Is My Shepherd, and she snaps, "Grow up, Pig!" We're supposed to believe that nubile young female cello students are dying to cosy up to him when he uses lines like: Do you like big instruments? and Squeeze it tighter with your legs.

Well, enough of that. Any way, for a handsome sum of money, he marries a Russian woman so that she can get her green card, only she immediately runs off to West Germany to join her married boyfriend, leaving her six-year-old son, Kolya, behind. Here the formula thickens-the adorable Kolya becomes his responsibility, and suddenly the film is transformed into One Man and an Irresistible Child.

This kid Kolya is unbelievably perfect, always cute and uncomplaining, and ecstatic when he gets a violin as a birthday gift even though he's never played one. Sure, there are plot complications-suspicious emigration officials who threaten Louka with persecution for his paper marriage, the hostility of Czech patriots like Louka's mother who want nothing to do with a Russian child, the crimp that a child puts in Louka's social life, and crises when Kolya has the flu, and gets lost on the metro. But there's this bonding between the boy and the playboy, and just when things look the bleakest, Czechoslavakia is freed.

Does Kolya sound a little saccharine? Well, that's because it is.

Copyright 1997 Mary Weems

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