All Things August: Jan Schmidt’s “Late August at the Hotel Ozone”

600full-late-august-at-the-hotel-ozone-screenshotWhen it comes to watching films of certain eras, genres, sub-genres, or countries, or watching films made by certain directors, cinematographers, studios, or even ones featuring certain actors, let’s face it, we can’t possibly see them all. Now, as diverse as I like to pride myself as being, I too have a number of gaps to fill within my ever ongoing quest to sample as much from the vast smorgasbord of film history as I possibly can before I die. This is why, starting this month (August) I will dedicate the last two weeks of each month to watching as many films as I can to movies that have the name of the month somewhere within their titles. Hopefully, come 12 months from now, this will be one more silly sub-sub-category of films that I can cross off my need-to-watch list.

A post apocalyptic female centric film featuring strong female characters!? Unheard of you say? Well, believe it!

I just love me some Czech new wave cinema. The long unscripted dialogues, the dark and absurd humor, the casting of non-professional actors, and I almost forgot, the scenic shots of gritty terrains! This under championed film of this 1960s film movement, has all these great things – and then some. The then some elements setting it apart from its stylistic siblings are two key elements: 1 – The time in which this takes place, fifty or so years into a dystopian future, and 2 – The mostly all female cast consisting of nine brutish women, eight of whom we are to presume were born around the same time the film’s apocalypse began.

The easiest way for me to describe Last August at the Hotel Ozone would be to say it plays like a grittier more brutal Richard Attenborough (RIP) narrated nature documentary, only here it’s a pack of human females we get to study instead of a pack of wolves, and instead of a tranquil and harmonious jungle we get a dystopian black and white photographed backdrop of sorrowful ashy skies and dank Earth. Like watching a pack of wolves, we see them hunt, play, and obey their elder, then ultimately we see what they do when their elder becomes no more. It’s a fascinating way to watch an apocalypse, for sure. But the most enjoyment comes from observing these women in their world of decay where seemingly nothing else, nor no one else, exists.

While I loved this film, it should be noted that I can’t in good conscience recommend it to everyone. There are two types of people to whom I would not recommend seeing this, and if you fall into any one of these categories and still decide to see this, well don’t say I didn’t warn you.

First, there are those who are squeamish when it comes to watching animals be killed on screen. I’ll put it this way, there was no disclaimer stating that “No animals were harmed during the filming of this movie”. Snake, cow, and dog lovers in particular will not be happy campers.

Second, are the people who need a bigger plot line in their cinema or need things to be spelled out for them at every step of the way. If you generally find annoyance in watching long stretches of minimal to non-dialogue scenes unfold, than there’s a good chance this film is not for you.

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