Up and Down: Martin Spelda
Lisa Schwarzbaum
February 24, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

Up and Down

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
108 minutes
Limited Release Date
02/25/05
performer
Petr Forman, Emilia Vasaryova
director
Jan Hrebejk
distributor
Sony Pictures Classics
author
Jan Hrebejk, Petr Jarchovsky

We gave it an A-

As he demonstrated four years ago in the superb, Oscar-nominated period piece Divided We Fall, filmmaker Jan Hrebejk has a fine talent for dramatizing the Czech flair for standing erect on insecure moral and political ground. The rollicking social comedy Up and Down continues the director’s interest in adaptability and its discontents, then ups the ante by setting the story in the shape-shifting post-Communist present.

Everyone in Hrebejk’s deft fable is busy snapping up opportunities while scaling down hopes. A woman desperate for a child (her husband’s arrest for soccer hooliganism precludes adopting) buys a baby left behind in an immigrant-smuggler’s truck. A professor’s illness forces a meeting of his bourgeois present (he lives with a pretty, younger woman and their well-bred daughter) and his scrappier Communist-era past (he left a bitter wife, Vera, and an estranged, now middle-aged son).

Up and Down captures Prague life with a fervor that’s comical but a longing that’s serious; no one is easy to pigeonhole: A glimpse of Vera, vibrant in a smoky pub, compacts a thousand words into a single picture. It takes an artist like Hrebejk to know when to point and shoot.

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