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Kinoautomat traces the foibles and misfortunes of Mr. Novák , a bumbling husband who just wants to show his wife a good time on her birthday. Things get sticky when his comely neighbor, Mrs. Svoboda, appears at his door in nothing but a towel. She’s locked out, of course, and Novák’s in a pickle: Does he let her in and risk a scandal, or leave her out in the cold? This is but one of the dilemmas that made the 1967 brainchild of Radúz Cincera a minor splash upon its theatrical release: Billing itself as the world’s “first interactive film,” Kinoautomat lets viewers control Mr. Novák’s actions by clicking, at various crucial points, either a green or a red button. Once the audience makes its first choice, things start to snowball in ways predictable and otherwise. The film sports elements endemic to satire under the Soviets—jarringly comic violence, neighbors who inform on one another willy-nilly—and the audience is made complicit in a proliferating game of tit-for-tat. A surprisingly effective stroke in the U.S. release is overdubbing the original Czech in humorously bumbling British accents. Regardless of where the audience steers it, the film’s a deft comedy of manners, flush with delightful stock caricatures and period shots of Prague. An occasionally Bacharach-worthy a cappella soundtrack scores the farce, which verges into satire only when we understand that it’s meant to.
Sunday at 3 p.m. at Regal Gallery Place.