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Pearls of the Czech New Wave [Criterion Collection] [4 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

The Joke
A man who has been drummed out of the Communist Party for telling a joke seeks revenge by seducing the wife of a prominent official. He is sent to be rehabilitated but believes the party has fallen victim to insiders who pay lip service to communal society virtues but are only out for themselves. What started out as a humorous interlude ends up with the man feeling demoralized and betrayed by the organization he had given his all to support. ~ Dan Pavlides, Rovi

Capricious Summer
The Czechoslovakian Capricious Summer is based on a novel by Jan Libora. The plot focuses on three middle-aged vacationers at a summer resort. The tourist's plans for rest and relaxation are messed up when a circus tightrope walker and his toothsome daughter arrive on the scene. Director Jiri Menzel (the man responsible for the international success Closely Watched Trains) appears as the circus performer. A valentine to lost innocence, Capricious Summer won the Grand Prix at Karlovy Vary, an East European film festival. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

O Slavnosti a Hostech
This experimental Czechoslovakian film seems disturbingly akin to the works of Spain's Luis Bunuel. A group of happy picnickers runs afoul of Jan Klusak, a bullying sadist who has some sort of unbreakable hold over his followers. Klusak subjects the picnickers to a cruel psychological game, wherein he plays interrogator. The ordeal comes to a brief end when a stranger (Ivan Vyskocil) arrives, apologizes for Klusak, and invites everyone to an elegant, formal outdoor banquet. But the bizarre "fun and games" continue, ending with the group embarking on a fully armed hunting party in search of a missing guest. Built on the premise of unquestioning conformity, Report on the Party and the Guests (O Slavnosti a Hostech) was a typically iconoclastic effort from the husband-and-wife director-screenwriter team of Jan Nemec and Ester Krumbachova. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Pearls of the Deep
Five directors team up for this drama that strings the stories together in one 105-minute Czech feature. "Mr. Baltazar's Death" is directed by Jiri Menzel. Jan Nemec directs "The Imposters" in which two elderly men nearing death keep themselves alive by telling each other lies about their careers. In Elward Schorm's "The House Of Happiness," an insurance agent flees from the home of an eccentric painter when he believes his mother is a witch. In "The Snack Bar," directed by Vera Chvtilova, a young woman's body is found after she has committed suicide. The final feature, "Romance" directed by Jaromi Jires, involves a young man having an affair with a carefree gypsy woman before she returns to her traveling tribe. The feature marks the emergence of five young directors who show that Czechoslovakia has made leaps and bound in the quality and technical aspects of filmmaking as of 1965. ~ Dan Pavlides, Rovi

Daisies
An exercise in avant-garde cinema that is freshly humorous and accessible, Daisies is a dark comedy that eschews a traditional narrative for a Dadaist construction of events. Perpetually dressed in vibrantly corresponding costumes and dark black eyeliner, Marie and Marie work together to create mischief. Seeing the world ruined and values worthless, they decide to "go bad." They stage various dinner dates with stale old men, eat and drink merrily while telling lies, and, in a fast-motion Chaplinesque bit of slapstick, they hop trains and lose the men. Always looking for new adventures, the girls get drunk at a nightclub and get kicked out in a grand physical comedy style. They sit around their apartment and destroy things with a deadpan whimsy, apathetic to the men professing their love. Pursuing adventure about town, the two Maries take a dumbwaiter up to a banquet hall and proceed to delightfully demolish it. Using both black-and-white and color film stock, the girls' antics are enhanced by innovative special effects and camera tricks by cinematographer Jaroslav Kucera. Historically a key film in the Czech New Wave movement, Daisies was banned and director Vera Chytilová was forbidden to work until 1975. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, Rovi

Nyvrat Ztraceneho Syna
The mind of a man whose life is apparently running smoothly but who attempts suicide is delved into in this sincere movie. The story catches up with him during his treatment at a mental health clinic which grants him short passes away, but to which he must return. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi

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