Before Tonight is Over [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Second Run
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (22nd June 2021).
The Film

Crystal Globe (Best Film): Peter Solan (nominee) - Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, 1966

Off-season in the resort area of the High Tatras, the highest mountain region of the Carpathians situated in Slovakia, on such a night when a certain type of people can affect the lives of the leisure class in an underground club bar. Plumber Milos (I Served the King of England's Marián Labuda) hopes to score with one of a pair of Polish model lookalikes Olga (The Hour of Truth's Jana Gýrová) and Mira (Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea's Jitka Zelenohorská ); that is, he hopes for his pretty boy colleague Kvetinka (Murderer from Beyond the Grave's Stano Danciak) to pave the way. Middle-aged Baláz (The Bride of the Mountains' Július Pántik) sits at the bar trying to buying drinks for the band and the dancers, and tries awkwardly to strike up conversations with other customers. Retired Major Holub (Vladimír Durdík) and his wife (Erna Suchánová) are wiling away the night over the former's disappointment with his son's career prospects and choice of bride. Traveling salesman Kunert (I, Justice's Eduard Pavlícek) unsuccessfully tries to stave off loneliness through flirtation, former electrician turned artist Kravárik (Demons are Calling's Viliam Polónyi) attempts to solicit the interest of strangers in the mechanical lighting feature of which he is most proud, and barmaid Betka (A Local Romance's Valentina Thielová) tries to keep the orders and long-running tabs of some of customers straight.

One of the first major works of Slovakian cinema as it was distinguishing itself from its Czech contemporaries, Before Tonight is Over was actually one of three productions by director Peter Solan long in gestation and delayed by bureaucratic opposition, ended up released in quick succession. Whereas The Boxer and Death was a concentration camp drama that was judged not anti-fascist enough, and The Case of Barnabas Kos was a satire about art under socialism, Before Tonight is Over presented what could be viewed as a negative, or at least flawed, view of Slovak society that may have been "realistic" but, according to critic Peter Hames in the disc's booklet, not so in the Social Realist mode of clean living and positive role models. While the film was scripted by fellow FAMU graduate and longtime collaborator Tibor Vichta, director Solan had his actors improvise while cinematographer Vincent Rosinec ran multiple cameras from different angles in order to capture spontaneous and unguarded reactions. Even though little really happens, and the separate story threads only casually connect with (or brush against) each other, it would be a mistake to define the film as just an experiment with form since the characters do develop over the course of the evening and into the dawn. Kvetinka and Milos reveal insecurities and vulnerabilities when confronted with adversities like procuring expensive drinks for their dates, Olga and Mira in quarreling reveal how much misery they put up with throughout the year for five days of leisure, Holub reveals that his glory days are way behind him and his wife is just about fed up with it, and Kravárik finds himself back in the role of electrician when his own enjoyment is spoiled by faulty wiring. Baláz is the most interesting and tragic of the characters, seen as pathetic from the start as he tries to buy friends, earning the contempt of Kvetinka when he tries to buy him the bottle of Napoleon brandy Betka will not put on his tab, finding Milos annoying for the very reasons others avoid him, and the dancers and musicians making a performance out of accepting the round of drinks he has purchased for them. When Baláz confesses to the police that he has drunk away the wages of his builders and explaining his reasoning, only then does he seem to earn the respect of Kvetinka and the affection of other customers for an act not so much defiant as recklessly anarchic. However flawed and selfish the characters may seem, it is hard not to look upon them with the same affection they seem to develop for one another over the course of the film.


Mastered from a 2K restoration from the Slovak Film Institute, Before Tonight is Over is making its Blu-ray debut in the U.K. from Second Run – with Slovakian Blu-ray releases of Solan's other two early films already available, there will presumably be one of this film as well in the near future – and the SFI's approach to restoration is thankfully not that of the Czech National Film Archive, cleaning up the materials (reel change marks and all) to unveil a transfer of sixties blacks and cool grays with heavier grain from underexposure apparent in the night exteriors and virtually nothing in the way of age-related damage.


The Slovak LPCM 2.0 mono audio is also in very good shape with clear (post-dubbed) dialogue and music while the English subtitles make an error once or twice in referring to Olga in the diminutive as "Olinka" and then "Olina".


The disc's major extra is "On Before Tonight is Over" (27:31) in which the Slovak Film Institute Director of the National Cinematographic Centre Ratislav Steranka and Editor-in-Chief Martin Kanuch note that earlier Slovak directors and technicians learned on the job while Solan, screenwriter Vichta, and fellow filmmaker Ján Kadár (The Shop on the Hight Street) were the first of a new generation of Slovak filmmakers raised on movies and having graduated from FAMU (Filmová a televizní fakulta Akademie múzických umění v Praze). They note the differences between Czech filmmakers at Barrandov Studios and Slovak filmmakers at Koliba Studios, how they were tested in the documentary film unit not only professionally by ideologically, Solan's trio of early works in the context of his contemporaries, and the evolution of Solan's and writer Peter Karvas' original concept to Vichta's adaptation and Solan's experimental shooting. Also included are a pair of short films not helmed by Solan but contextualizing the setting and ambience of the film. "High Tatras [Bysoké Tatry]" (1966; 11:30) is a travelogue on the location while "Operation BL [Akcia BL]" (1959; 2:25) is a commercial film advertising male grooming products.


Packaged with the disc in the case is a 20-page booklet with writing on the film by critic Peter Hames in which he covers some of the same ground as the video extra but also distinguishing Solan's experimental approach from the likes of Slovakian contemporary Stefan Uher's The Sun in a Net or the more observational approaches of Czech Miloš Forman (Black Peter) or British Ken Loach.


However flawed and selfish the characters of Before Tonight is Over may seem next to their Social Realist role model contemporaries, it is hard not to look upon them with the same affection they seem to develop for one another over the course of the film.


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