B&W, 1965, 73 mins. 45 secs.
Directed by Ivan Passer
Starring Zdeněk Blažek, Karel Blazek, Miroslav Cvrk, Vera Kresadlová, Jan Vost Second Run (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK R0 HD/PAL)
A unique entry in Czech cinema, Intimate Lighting is the first film by filmmaker Ivan Passer, one of the few among his peers to venture widely outside his native country after the Czech New Wave. Also known for writing Milos Forman's Loves of a Blonde and Fireman's Ball, he moved to America and directing such films as Cutter's Way, Creator, and Haunted Summer.
This one is probably closest to Fireman's Ball in tone as it examines the return of successful Prague musician Petr (Blažek) and his wife (Kresadlová) to the village where he grew up and a reconnection with friend Bambas (Blazek), who runs the local music school and hasn't had a chance to bask in the same kind of limelight. The bulk of the film is spent examining their lives and situations in the quaint settings, with a focus on the contrast between ambitions and reality and the demands of different generations of families.
It's a simple and beautiful film, with a cast largely comprised of amateurs creating a convincing snapshot of a specific time and place that would change as the government began to evolve even the same year this was shot. The focus on music (including an indelible opening sequence involving Dvorak) also gives it a unique, classical flavor that makes it feel oddly timeless now. Freed from any overt political statements, it's simply a sweet and moving look at basic human dreams and would probably fit well with some of the later films of Bill Forsyth.
Released in English-friendly form only from Second Run in the U.K., Intimate Lighting first appeared on DVD in 2006 and was later integrated as the most lighthearted of the three films in the label's The Czechosvloak New Wave: A Collection boxed set along with The Cremator and Diamonds of the Night. The transfer for this one is excellent throughout; there's a very slightly bit of yellowish tinting on the left side (probably obscured on most TVs anyway), but otherwise it's virtually immaculate and makes for a very pleasing viewing experience. The mono audio and optional English subtitles are done with the label's usual loving care as well. The liner notes are modest but worthwhile, written by Phillip Bergson, and Passer himself appears for a good 19m25s interview in which he discusses his first directorial project, his career as a screenwriter, and his politically-motivated reasons for leaving his native country and moving to Hollywood.
In 2018, Second Run revisited the film for a Blu-ray release featuring a new HD transfer courtesy of the Czech National Film Archive. As good as the new DVD looked, the Blu-ray easily surpasses it in every way and looks spectacular with very sharp detail and a beautiful gray scale that pay dividends during the lengthy nocturnal chat that comprises most of the final third of the film. It really looks impressive, and the LPCM Czech 2.0 mono track (with optional, improved English subtitles) is also in perfect condition. The Passer interview and Bergson liner notes are carried over (plus a worthwhile new essay by Trevor Johnston), and sweetening the deal even further is Passer's 1964 short film, A Boring Afternoon (Fádní odpoledne) (14m9s), also in a new HD scan. This will likely be a new one for most English-speaking viewers and it's a real gem, using a glimpse at the personalities in a village tavern to lay out a slice of life look at two generations coexisting but having very different senses of humor and priorities. It's a perfect companion to the main feature and almost worth picking up the disc all by itself.