Rhythm On My Heels

The central characters in the new Czech film Rhythm On My Heels are young jazz musicians and their friends. They are ensnared in a plot by the communist party’s intelligence wing to concoct a case branding them anti-communist activitsts. This powerful film is directed by Andrea Sedláčková and acted by a vibrant cast. It is based on Josef Škvoreckýs book The Tenor Saxophonist’s Story. Many in the audience for last night’s screening at Seattle’s Town Hall lived through the communist occupation of Czechoslovakia (1948-1990). The emotions of that debilitating period of the nation’s history showed in their faces as they watched the film, which was shot on location in Prague. This paragraph is from the program for a screening last week in New York.

The story takes place in Czechoslovakia in the fifties and is “a musical tragedy” about love. Main character Danny is the alter ego of Josef Skvorecky himself. Danny is passionate about beautiful girls and jazz, but at the wrong time in a country where communist regime considers this music be way too imperialistic for young people. Danny and his friends form a jazz band and try to live a normal life in a strange world, where one’s destiny is shaped by politics, secret police and undercover agents who might as well be those beautiful girls.

Screened at international film festivals, the film had showings this week in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Pianist Emil Viklický, who composed the soundtrack, attended the screening and followed it with a concertby his trio. Six of the young actors from the film joined them to sing the title song and other music from the score. They are Vojtech Dyk, Jan Meduna, Berenika Kohoutova, Marika Soposka and Margareta Hruza. Ms. Kohutova (pictured) also sang a few standards. She has the potential to become a superior jazz vocalist.

Bassist Clipper Anderson and drummer Don Kinney rounded out the Viklický rhythm section. To read about their concert on a previous US visit by Viklický, click here. To read about his connection with Škvorecký, go here.

Wayne Jehlik, the Czech consul in Seattle, reports that efforts are afoot to arrange for US distribution of a DVD of Rhythm On My Heels. For its dramatic content, acting, Ms. Sedláčková’s directing and Viklický’s vivid music, the film is worthy of theatrical release here.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the recommendation, Doug.

    There is also an American film about jazz under a totalitarian dictatorship. It’s from 1993, but the plot is settled in pre-war nazi Germany: Swing Kids.

    The acting is great throughout, but the music is played a bit too perfect; our 1930’s big bands were good, no question, but certainly not as swingy as the ones, featured in the film.

    One of those ‘swing kids’ has visited me quite often in the last years, ’cause he is living right around the corner.

    Feel free to visit my blog, where you would find a picture of one of those meetings between the old, and the younger ‘swing kid':

    It Happened 68 Years Ago

    We can be happy that no one is telling us today what would be the appropriate music to listen to. Everything goes, or am I wrong? –The new dictators are better hidden nowadays, they would come along in seemingly harmless disguises. Some of them are only 27 years old and have millions of “friends” :)