Thursday, May 7, 2015

keep smiling

The Lucerna
For my inaugural blog on the Czech Republic - which has been admittedly late in the coming - I've decided to cover a particular event about something close to my heart which takes place in one of my favorite beer halls of the city. The bar in question is the Lucerna, where I have brought many a guest to scarf down the deliciously bodied Plzensky Prazdroj beer while taking in the ambiance of an Art Nouveau cafe - or as referred to in the local marketing parlance, which sounds more mysterious and almost Star Wars-like, "in the style of the First Republic" - complete with brass beer taps, marble floors, modernist light fixtures, and green curtains. Perhaps, there's no better way to describe the place than borrow the words of the bar itself from the corporate webpage: "Lantern cafe is an architectural gem, comfortable stylish cafe which offers a peaceful release of the film and after seeing the film and is a very pleasant place for friendly or small workshops." Now, I don’t really want to know what kind of “peaceful release” they’re talking about, but I’ll settle for that nice tap beer.

To get to the Lucerna, like getting anywhere in Prague, is a bit tricky. Off of Vaclav Namesti, one must find Vodickova street, which is marked by a hot dog stand and a women's only H&M. Then go down Vodickova towards the river and you'll see a sign that says "Lucerna". This is tragically referring to the whole shopping center, as every store and bar there is called "Lucerna" - there's also a Lucerna there that is quite a nice live music venue with big acts and a yet surprisingly intimate space and serving equally surprisingly affordable beer. Walk deep inside the shopping center until you come across a statue of an upside-down horse with an upside-up man sitting on it, hanging from the ceiling - nobody pretends Czech public art makes sense, but at least it's better than American corporate art. At the hanging statue, there's a grand staircase, go up that and hang a left and you're there.

At Lucerna, don't bother with food, just go straight for the drink, as most of the food is bland and pre-made and they don't even act as though it isn't. If you order a sandwich, with full pomp and circumstance they'll serve it to you in a plastic box. Paninis here are at least microwaved and served on a porcelain plate, so stick to that or cakes if you're hungry. Do drink beer, coffee or tea, of which the latter two have quite a large selection. The beer on tap is the ever-so-creamy and delicious Plzensky Prazdroj, a brew put out by the same company as Pilsner Urquell and that tastes like a mix between said famous and cream soda. I like it and it seems to get me tipsy quite fast. 

The Africa event at the Lucerna
As the cafe itself is also connected to the art house movie theatre, Lucerna Kino, it tends to host a lot of related cultural events. When I was there last to watch a film in the Georgian Film Festival, they were hosting an altogether different event - if only the Georgian film festival could have hosted an event complete with Georgian art and singing! There was a line of pictures of scenes from Africa, complete with the usual starving children that you see - since no one is really concerned with anything else regarding Africa. There were also a lot of tables set up with presumably free glasses of wine. And then, since the pictures of Africa always go along with it, there were many a white person milling about, talking about aid effort and how tragic whatever situation that was going on "over there" was. "A real tragedy. Ah, can I get you another glass of wine? The real tragedy would be if you didn't get quite drunk enough so as to -"

I was there, waiting to watch an entirely different movie about an entirely different impoverished part of the world, which is the part of this blog that is close to my heart. That week, unbeknownst to the majority of Prague, the Georgian Film Festival was going on. That night, like the year before, the Georgian film Keep Smiling (2012), written and directed by Rusudan Chkhonia, was playing. Keep Smiling is a pretty accurate portrayal of the condition that Georgian women live in, displayed using an all-too-corrupt beauty and talent contest about Georgian mothers that seeks to select which would be the next "Georgian Mother" to guide the nation. The movie is a full five stars in my book: excellent subject matter, excellent performances and great direction. Additionally, the movie didn't ever linger too long on anything and the viewer never finds a need to glance at their watch - which pretty much keeps every Tarkovsky film off of my five star list.

Overly dramatic trailer for Keep Smiling (it's a dark comedy, not a high drama, as the trailer music suggests):

Keep Smiling full movie with English subs:

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