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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

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Foreign film mocks classic westerns


The cinematic term ìnew waveî may not be immediately familiar to most movie watchers, especially since most of the significant European new waves happened in the 1960s. Czech New Wave is a good example, and one that altered the course of film history with a number of changes; long and sometimes unscripted dialogues, absurd humor, casting non-actors and thematic elements not usually found in communist countries.

With the exception of 1968’s The Firemen’s Ball, Limon∑dov? Joe, or Lemonade Joe, is one of the foremost comedies of the Czech New Wave. As a spoof of American Westerns Lemonade Joe (and its eponymous hero) gleefully utilizes and exaggerates every possible Western cliche, including an incorruptible hero who never misses a shot, a whorehouse entertainer with a heart of gold, a mustachioed villain whose only motive is to kill the good guy, competing saloons, brawls and shootouts.

What makes Lemonade Joe so hilarious is the over-the-top motif that influences every aspect of the film. The dialogue is so corny that you can’t help but laugh out of absurd confusion, and the film frequently shifts between blue, red, yellow and orange.

Even the characters are hyperboles of themselves. Lemonade Joe is so pure and dependent on Kolaloka lemonade that even the scent of alcohol makes him faint. Hogo Fogo, the wanted villain who will do anything possible to kill Lemonade Joe, even goes so far as dressing up in blackface to attempt another assassination on the hero.

Eventually, everything the viewer expects to happen does, even a surprise twist ending based on an event so improbable it’s absurd. But viewers will still feel satisfied with the obvious ending. Like most satires, Lemonade Joe isn’t watched for the plot Û which acts only as a narrative device while characters, situations and dialogue do the work to reveal the film’s theme and scope.

With a close eye for 1960s film interpretation and outside education on communist Czechoslovakia, an American viewer may pick up on the subtle points of satiric criticism of both the West and communism. In 1968, the Soviets tightened censorship restrictions and abruptly ended the Czech New Wave, indirectly forcing many of its greatest contributors to expatriate or endure heavy censorship of their films. Lemonade Joe, however, holds its own in Czechoslovak filmography, both as a satire of its time, and a comedy for ours.


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