No sooner do I discover my all-time favorite Czech director than I learn that he's dropped out of sight. Does anyone know where Saša Gedeon has been keeping himself for the last ten years? He was just 24 when his wonderful short feature Indiánské léto (Indian Summer), an adaptation of Fitzgerald's short story Bernice Bobs Her Hair, was released to national acclaim. He followed in 1999 with the Dostoyevsky adaptation Návrat idiota (Return of the Idiot), which confirmed his star status in the Czech Republic, and even made its way to A-list festivals. Since then, nothing, except for a short segment in the 2004 omnibus film Visions of Europe. He turned 39 this August.
I hope some of you will visit Návrat idiota when it plays the Walter Reade on Saturday, October 24 at 8 pm and Tuesday, October 27 at 4 pm in the "Ironic Curtain" program of recent Czech cinema. In a sense, Gedeon continues the tradition of 60s Czech comedy, with its focus on the inarticulate eccentricity of its characters. But he has an immense gravity that moves his films away from outright comedy and toward a tone of revery and melancholy. Návrat idiota stays close to Dostoyevsky's paradoxical view of human nature, and Gedeon's excellent script maintains the mystery and dignity of a large cast of characters who circle the eponymous, naive hero (Pavel Liška). This is a major work from a director who should be much better known outside the Czech Republic.