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Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life (1999)

Art House & International and Comedy movie

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Mixed Bag

  • Oct 14, 2008
FRANZ KAFKA'S IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE AND OTHER STRANGE TALES is a DVD collection of four short films that were a part of Sundance in 1995. These films are a mixed bag of absurdity, drama, comedy, and poignancy.

The first film on the DVD is the title feature of the DVD, "FRANK KAFKA'S IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE". The writings of Kafka and the films of Frank Capra express two worldviews that are almost completely polar opposite of each other. This short film brings elements of both together to create an absurd little story that tells how Kafka was inspired to write his famous story, "The Metamorphosis". This short won the 1995 Oscar for Best Short Film, Live Action.

The next short is entitled "SEVEN GATES". Two brothers who live very different lives meet up together unexpectedly on the road home to their parent's for Christmas. The family's driveway is incredibly long and the brothers have to open up seven different gates across the driveway in order to pass through. Along the way they have a conversation.

The third short on the DVD is "THE DEAL". Two of the world's most powerful businessmen meet together to discuss a joint project that will make the two men THE most powerful men on the planet. A duel of witty banter becomes foreplay to the agreement that is ended by "testifying" to each other (if you know the origin of the word you'll understand). After watching the short, I saw in the credits that this short was written by Lewis Black, the obnoxious comedian. If you like his comedy, you will probably enjoy this short. It's the only short of the four that would have been rated PG-13 or R.

The last short on the DVD is "MR. McALLISTER'S CIGARETTE HOLDER". The film is based upon a short story by one of the lesser known writers of the American South, Mark Steadman. The story is filmed in black and white tones and follows one Mr. McAllister. Mr. McAllister finds a metal cigarette holder while working in the fields one day. It becomes his prized possession and seems a good luck charm that leads him to a beautiful albino girl, named Dora, that becomes his common law wife. On a birthday trip to the beach with Dora, Mr. McAllister discovers something that shakes him to his core and is shown what true love really is.

I enjoy watching short films, but I have to admit that I only enjoyed two of the four films, "FRANZ KAFKA'S IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE" and "MR. MCALLISTER'S CIGARETTE HOLDER". "SEVEN GATES" has some touching moments, but it didn't do much for me and while "THE DEAL" is humorous, it's really nothing more than an extended punch-line drug out for almost twenty-five minutes. This DVD isn't for everyone, but if you enjoy short films, you might want to check it out.

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Stumbling over how to complete the first sentence of what was to be his masterpiece "Metamorphosis," Kafka writes: ...Gregor Samsa woke up one morning and found he had been transformed into a giant..." A giant what? A banana perhaps? A powerful sustained joke on both the perceived image of Franz Kafka and the powerful sentiment of Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life." Also includes "Seven Gates" - Brothers David and Daryl travel home to their family farm for Christmas; "The Deal" - A clandestine meeting between the world's two most powerful businessmen who negotiate a deal so immense, so awe-inspiring, so "BIG." The meeting progresses from the enlightening to the bizarre; "Mr. McAllister's Cigarette Holder" - In 1961 Georgia, Mr. McAllister lives alone. His reality leaves little room for pride, except for a unique cigarette holder he has. On a trip to town with his albino girlfriend, a sacrificial gift saves his pride and allows him to retain his dignity.
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DVD Release Date: May 15, 2001
Runtime: 84 minutes
Studio: Vanguard Cinema

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