Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Tomorrow I'll Wake up and Scald Myself with Tea (1977)

The Czechoslovakian people really had a way with titles. With films like Adele Has Not had her Supper Yet, to How to Drown Mr. Mracek the Lawyer, Sir, You are a Widow, Would You Like a Plate of Spinach?, and more, they really knew how to draw people in with the bizarrely mundane. A perfect example of this is Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea...

It's the near future, and time travel is a commercial tourist business. Jan Bureš is a mild mannered man, while his roustabout pilot brother Karel goes from woman to woman, drink to drink, and gets into all sorts of trouble. Despite this, Jan is envious of his brother's popularity, and when Karel suddenly chokes to death on a croissant, he takes his place. Things quickly become complicated however, when it turns out Karel was in league with a group of nazis determined to go back in time and win the second world war...

Zítra vstanu a opařím se čajem, aka Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea, is one of the best Czechoslovakian films I've seen, and a perfect showcase for their endless imagination. When you see what kinds of films they made despite the government of the time, it really stuns! The story is an imaginative and funny one, set in a future version of 1996, where time travel and other amazing technology exists, but everything still looks like 1970s era Czechoslovakia (hey, no complaints here!). It's always fun seeing a future where everything is wood-panelled and analog (although that at least was still there in the 90s).

Naturally this isn't a movie that would've had a huge budget, so it uses its money very effectively. It does disappoint in one area though. We spend surprisingly little time in the past! The majority of the film takes place in the present. It's all good stuff, but it can be weird on a first viewing when the cast return from the past, and almost never return!

At first I did mind how much time the movie was spending in the present, for things that seemed irrelevant once everyone's in the past. But they did eventually come back into the picture, albeit at the expense of the past adventure. Things maybe could've been juggled smoother, but once you know what's happening, it's better, and the movie is always fun enough to make you overlook this.

I did find it offputting when Jan returns to the present, despite Helena and the tourists being left behind. On one hand I'm happy he does this, because it shows he's a great thinker, and quick on his feet. He didn't just abandon them, but is taking action to save everyone by changing the timeline. My problem though? Once time travel stories start overlapping on themselves it can get very confusing, and at worst it erases all the development we saw. This film comes dangerously close to that.

There was one scene that got me worried, when it seemed like the original Jan we've got to know for the whole film was killed! Luckily that wasn't the case. On that note, there is a funny moment where the future Bauer kills his present day version, which makes no sense! If he was killed by his present day version it'd make sense, in a darkly funny way. Like "Well since you won't exist now that we'll succeed, we don't need you. BANG!". But the way it happens is the opposite, and makes no sense.

In all this confusion there are at least some details I liked, such as Jan's amusingly confusing calls to his past self, and to the time bureau's boss, which show how much he now likes Helena, and how it's reciprocated. He's a genuinely good judge of character, despite being a bit of a hapless fellow!

It is a little maddening how in a world where time travel exists and is a commodity/commercial service, no-one takes seriously the declaration of "I'm your past self". But thankfully when explained properly and taken to the right authorities, everything goes well, and it's never too frustrating.

The effects here are neat! The green skin people get when zapped by the futuristic spray looks neat, and the rocket is great, as are all the related sets. The launching station looks like it must've cost a pretty penny, and it was definitely worth it!

The opening credits are amusing and surprisingly modern, with how they doctor archive footage to make Hitler look as silly as possible. It may be a little hard to watch if you don't like looking at his nazi mug, but it is fun seeing him made a fool.

The cast here are fantastic. Petr Kostka is perfect in his double role, and the fact that his character understands what's going on helps us get our heads around easier. Valerie Chmelová is a sweet love interest, with a hint of sass. Jiří Sovák and Vladimír Menšík are great villains, along with the others, and are visually distinctive.

I was very amused by the 'American' tourists, who manage to speak fluent Czech (ha!). They still act exactly like Yanks though, to humorous effect. I enjoyed the rest of the supporting players, like the acrobatic family, the flower girl, and the reactions of the trucker giving Jan a lift during his time travel phone call.

The music by Karel Svoboda is a high point. There are nice tracks throughout, and the time travel agency's jingle has a really nice sound to it. Soothing and familiar. The best track is the triumphant travel music, as well as its softer rescoring. These combine really well in the ending, making for an ending guaranteed to leave you smiling.

Overall, Tomorrow I'll Wake up and Scald Myself with Tea is a perfect example of the charm, humour, and adventure that time travel stores can achieve. But it's also a good example of everything that can go wrong with them...

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