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LECTURE 05.12.23: A Fresh Look at the Czech New Wave
...and some of the most beautiful films in modern cinema history
A talk by Mark Le Fanu on Tuesday 5th December 2023 at 6.30pm in the Embassy of the Czech Republic, 26-30 Kensington Palace Gardens, London W8 4QY. Booking here.
Throughout the decade of the 1960s, Czechoslovakia released (and occasionally held back for political reasons) some of the most beautiful films in modern cinema history. Movies such as Closely Observed Trains (Jiri Menzel), Intimate Lighting (Ivan Passer), A Blonde in Love (Milos Forman) are canonical works, celebrated everywhere where film is loved for their wisdom, understatement and irony. Any attempt to revisit the Czech New Wave will need to spend some time on the classics, and to try to say a few new things about them. Yet what really characterised the movement as a whole was its extraordinary depth and variety. As the writer Josef Škvorecký puts it in his wonderful personal history of Czech cinema All the Bright Young Men and Women (1971):
“No move-ment is adequately described by a simple enumeration of its major personalities…The group of young people who moved the Barrandov mountain was larger than the world might imagine, including artists who are unknown to the world, either due to bad luck, or because they worked for a long time as ‘mere’ screenplay writers, before they began directing.”
As well as glancing at greats such as Menzel, Forman, Chytilová, Němec and Schorm, the talk proposes to take a look at this 'second layer' of Czech directing talent whom Skvorecký refers to - artists such as František Vláčil, Vojtěch Jasný, Pavel Juráček, Karel Kachyňa, Jaromil Jireš, along with a handful of interesting and underrated Slovak directors such as Juraj Jakobisko, Peter Solan and Štefan Uher
Mark Le Fanu is a London-based film historian who has written books on Tarkovsky, on Mizoguchi and on the contribution made to European cinema by the depleted tradition of Christianity (Believing in Film, Bloomsbury, 2019). Essays by him on individual classic films can be found on criterion.com
Image: promotional material © Barrandov Studios Loves of a Blonde, Closely Observed Trains, The Cremator, The House on the Main Street.