Thursday, August 27, 2009

Taste The Rainbow

Limonádový Joe aneb Koňská opera (Lemonade Joe) (1965) Directed By Oldřich Lipský
“Lemonade Joe” is a Czech New Wave musical comedy western. It begins with a silent film style battle of cowboys throwing each other through windows and constantly brawling in fast-mo. The camera uses a yellow filter, giving us the wild west is with a lemon tint. Colors change from time to time based on the action, red during a sexy dance number, and blue during a rescue mission in the dead of night, but mostly lemon yellow. Visually this movie puts the Acid in the Acid Western genre, if there was one.A young girl and her elderly father walk into the bar extolling the benefits of giving up liquor, most notably it will make you a better shot. The cowboys though constantly violent and shooting their guns off, are too drunk to ever manage to hit each other. They preach an escape from whiskey and hand out tracts, but the owner of the bar, Mr. Badman is unconcerned, until Lemonade Joe shows up. In a full yellow suit(though it’s hard to tell in a completely yellow world), and nearly glowing, Lemonade shows up to teach the ruffians some manners, and to extol the praises of escape from Alcohol and the benefits of Kolakola Lemonade (the only Lemonade he drinks). Quickly the cowboys convert to an all Lemonade town, thinking they to will get Lemonade Joe’s shooting prowess. But then the terrible Mogofogo arrives in town, he is a kind of magician and master of disguise among gunmen. As fate would have it he is Mr. Badman’s brother and the two set out to reconvert the towns people to drinking whiskey again.Though Joe is shown walking past such southwestern landmarks as the Sphinx and the Eiffel Tower, he manages to see when the girl is in trouble and comes back to her rescue. What ensues is a series of Looney Toonesesque clashes between Lemonade Joe and Mogofogo. Then Joe’s secret is revealed, that is and always has been an employee of Kolakola Lemonade, who does good deeds and rights wrongs as a kind of free advertisement for the company. The young girl is delighted to hear this, and agrees to marry him immediately, provided she get a percentage of the action. They haggle and he agrees and they laugh and they love. Lemonade Joe is like watching a psychedelic television serial; an old Flash Gordon or Tarzan, but through a lens of Soviet deconstructionism. It's Brect in the wild wild west. The rivalry between the hero and the villain is not a moral issue, if Joe wins the cowboys shoot each other and don’t miss, “when the gunmen’s drinking Kolakola there’s no need to call the doctor". It’s a kill” boasts Joe, while Mr. Badman wins the cowboys go back to endless drunken, but not life threatening, brawls. After Mogofogo kidnaps Joe’s girl, by exploiting his only weakness alcohol(Joe’s kryptonite), Joe tracks him down and instead of punishing him, only asks that he sign a contract stating he will switch from whiskey to lemonade. In the end the franchise wars, are ended when all of the characters discover they are long lost brothers and sisters. Their father appears and says “hero or villain, we all have our use in the company.” The father decides to merge the companies into Whis-Kola, a whiskey and lemonade alternative, and satire of Coca-Cola. I imagine this lampooning of "western" capitalism and product placement in the guise of the American western, would have been very obvious to the Czech audience at the time, and the soviet censors who would have had to decide if the film was “ideologically acceptable”. Most importantly this movie is slapstick fun dipped in impossible colors. The comedy is touch and go, and for the most part the novelty of its delivery, and continuous camera tricks keep us interested, though it drags a bit at times.After watching it I completely understand why people would recommend it, it's another in a list of Czech surrealist films like like “Daisies”, “The Cremater”, “Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders”, and “Who Want’s To Kill Jessie”. I would love to see a Coffin Joe meets Lemonade Joe crossover, but I know it’s just wishful thinking. A boy can dream though, a boy can dream…

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