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Pharaoh Haqq Presents: Panel Story

Vera Chytilová

Made during Czechoslovakia’s “Normalization” period and banned shortly after its release, Chytilová’s fractured film examines a Tati-esque human ecology among the residents of a semi-built high-rise estate. Panelstory uses rhythmic, kaleidoscopic montage, intercutting between high-rise denizens and the drab slabs of pre-fabricated cement blocks suspended in the air by cranes.

“A pleasurable and provocative morality play set inside decaying, failed utopian housing projects in Communist Czechoslovakia, Panelstory bursts with Chytilová’s unique stylistic flair and a keenly attuned moral sensibility. Vérité-style camerawork roams amid the rubble and up and down the dysfunctional apartment blocks, checking in with an ensemble cast of characters going about their daily lives.

Few films from its time are so openly critical of state socialism, and it’s a marvel that Panelstory managed to be made at all before being banned.” MAD

“Chytilová’s multi-level portrayal of contemporary life is a blunt and aggressive confrontation with the ‘normalised’ society in which she lived. Set against the background of a high-rise estate, the film examines the nature of contemporary morality and materialist preoccupations. One of the few genuinely critical works of its time, Prefab Story received limited release and was denied international exposure.” BFI

“Written by Eva Kacírková and herself, Věra Chytilová brilliantly directed the satirical Panelstory aneb Jak se rodí sídliste—Panelstory, in short. The setting is a vast apartment building complex just outside Prague; the complex is partially occupied, partly still under construction, with all the attendant machine-noise, mud and debris due to the latter. The overflowing, mostly unpleasant humanity, mostly within flats and in the outside mess, contrasts with long-shots of the solid, sterile edifices. As though battering these buildings, Chytilová’s camera dynamically pans, whips around and across the sides and windows, its zoom lens highly active both forward and back. Chytilová’s film is the most extreme application of cinéma-vérité camerawork to a fictional film that I can recall, lending the material, for all the film’s zaniness and slapstick comedy, a stunning degree of realism.” Dennis Grunes


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