Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Beggar's Opera

Zebrácká opera; comedy, Czech Republic, 1991; D: Jiří Menzel, S: Josef Abrhám, Marián Labuda, Rudolf Hrusínský, Barbora Leichnerová, Jana Brezková, Jeremy Irons

At the turn of the 20th century, two rival gangs of pickpockets roam in a city: one is led by the womanizing Macheath while the other is led by the overweight Peachum. When Peachum's daughter Polly starts an affair with Macheath, her father advises her to spy on him in order to trick him into a trap, but she refuses. However, Macheath is arrested anyway when a prostitute seduces him and then pretends he was about to rape her. The police inspector Lockit actually organized everything when Peachum bribed him. Lockit's daughter Lucy, who is also Macheath's wife, frees him from the prison, yet he is quickly apprehended. In jail, Peachum proposes Macheath a merger with himself as commander-en-chief. When it is revealed that Lockit actually controls both of them, Macheath agrees to conform and end with both Polly and Lucy.
Jiri Menzel's comical adaptation of John Gay's 18th century opera with the same title, "The Beggar's Opera" is a fun, accessible, dynamic and lively (crime) comedy that gains most of its energy from small jokes placed throughout the story as well as fine performances, with the overweight comedian Marian Labuda again standing out the most in the cast as Peachum (by the way, even Jeremy Irons has a small cameo as a prison inmate!), whereas the storyline kept its level of interest roughly until the end. The attention of the viewers is grabbed already in the funny opening sequence where robber no. 1 breaks a window and steals a necklace: a police officer runs after him but he just gives the necklace to robber no. 2 who runs in a completely different direction, who then gives it to robber no. 3, then to no. 4, no. 5...until the police officer completely loses his track of whom he should be chasing after. The schemes of pickpockets and gangs' tricks are also good for a good laugh (in one scene, a "beggar" is sitting on the street, placing his fake hand in front so that a nice lady can lean forward and give him some change, all the while his real hand, hidden under his fake hand, secretly steals the wallet from her purse). Overall, another good contribution to Menzel's comedy opus.

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