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Thursday, September 20, 2012

THE CZECH NEW WAVE


there are a lot of opinions concerning the explosion of Czech films in the 60s….when it began???  why it grew and persisted??? and what happened??   basically, the Czech New Wave erupted around 1964 with a meld of gifted artists and a government funded film industry centered in Prague….some of the films were slice-of-life…some historical…some semi-documentary in format…basically non-threatening to an Eastern Bloc country…however, a number of these films were socially barbed…controversial…and quite subversive….IMHO, the CNW began in 1964…flourished for five years…and more or less ended in 1969 after the Soviet invasion of 1968….here are some of the star players!!
MILOS FORMAN… best known in the West for CUCKOO’S NEST and AMADEUS…emigrated early from Czechoslovakia…. LOVES OF A BLONDE (1965) is his signature masterpiece…a bittersweet story of a working girl and a musician…full of humor and pathos….BLACK PETER and THE FIREMAN’S BALL are other notable efforts…
JIRI MENZEL… exploded onto the film scene with his debut feature CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS (1966)… this WWII pararable is full of humor and insight into human foibles, with a distinct Czech viewpoint of life…great performances…Academy Award winner…Menzel made LARKS ON A STRING (1969), which was so anti-communist that it was banned for 20+ years…
VERA CHYTILOVA… a feminist filmmaker from the early 60s…rose to prominence with DAISIES (1967)… basically a plotless film with numerous set pieces involving the two Maries…controversial…subversive…funny…avant-garde…and yes there are Daisies in the film…how this got released is amazing…maybe because it was apolitical??
JAN NEMEC… best known in the West for DIAMONDS OF THE NIGHT (1966)…another well told WWII story…two Jewish boys escape a prison train and struggle to survive alone and with help….very humanely told without being maudlin or mawkish…. REPORT ON THE PARTY AND THE GUESTS is Nemec’s most famous film…intensely critical and anti-establishment….the film was “banned forever” and made Jan a persona non grata..
JAN KADAR… before emigating to Canada, JK made the deeply personal SHOP ON MAIN STREET (1965)… yet another WWII story of a Czech Everyman forced to become the overseer of an elderly Jewish woman’s button shop…a wonderfully told and paced story…another Acadamey Award winner…
FRANTISEK VLACIL… MARKETA LAZAROVA (1968)… a epic 3 hour saga of 13th century Bohemia, concerning the clash between the last remnants of paganism and the Christian majority…a visual delight…long stretches of snow…wolves…forest…mountains…voted the best Czech film of all time…
JIRI WEISS… http://www.allmovie.com/artist/jir%C3%AD-weiss-p116325    “possible” New Wave director…
KAREL KACHNYA… http://www.allmovie.com/artist/karel-kachyna-p96541  am only familiar with UCHO…
IVAN PASSER… http://www.allmovie.com/artist/ivan-passer-p105732  well known in the West…I have heard of INTIMATE LIGHTING!!

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