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Tomas Vorel’s Smoke could be set in one of the grim factory towns of northern Bohemia—where the air is so foul with pollution that the locals ask anyone who comes from the city (including the film’s protagonist, Mirek, played by Jan Slovak) just why the hell they’ve come to such a dump. The film itself seems to have absorbed the soot and tar, underscoring Vorel’s dark but humorous take on the absurdities of the communist life that Czechs had traded for democracy the year before the film was made. Vorel (pictured) captures factory life from that era with a succinct and biting wit: From nonstop drinking and sheer indolence to the “culture nights” of disco kitsch organized by the factory, Smoke depicts a life of boredom, beer, and cigarettes, in a place where you can somehow find the girl of your dreams and lose her immediately in the town’s ever-present black haze. The film’s emotional life manages to shine through its surprising but oddly energetic musical numbers. At various times, the characters suddenly break directly from slang into lyrical bits that soar above the filthy streets and smokestacks. Though disconcerting at first, Smoke’s juxtaposition of music and the mundane begins to make sense as the film unfolds. And by its stark and sudden end, Smoke’s nod to the traditional movie musical is oddly moving—sort of like finding a blackened rose at the bottom of a smokestack. Smoke screens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 26, at the Embassy of the Czech Republic, 3900 Spring of Freedom St. NW. Free. (202) 274-9105. (Richard Byrne)