Sept 16 – Sept 23

KAREL ZEMAN: A RETRO-FUTURIST FANTASIST NONPAREIL

A visionary filmmaker who is a profound influence on filmmakers as diverse as Ray Harryhausen, Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton and Wes Anderson, Karel Zeman’s (1910–1989) cinema ever looked simultaneously forwards and backwards in its inspirations, narratives, aesthetics and means of production.

Often dubbed “The Czech Méliès” in recognition of his extraordinary ingenuity with illusionary in-camera trickery, Zeman never strove for realism in the homespun special effects and animation techniques he yoked to live action and location shooting, but rather for their very artificiality to imbue his cinema with magical, poetic dimensions. Yet, almost paradoxically, it is often impossible to spot the seams separating the “real” elements within his films from the wholly artificial. Across this season of imported titles, augmented by two superb early short works, Zeman’s cinema uncannily populates worlds both real and imagined as previously rendered by great illustrators of the 16th through to the 20th centuries.

Several of Zeman’s films – notably, The Outrageous Baron Munchausen and, especially, the proto-steampunk An Invention for Destruction – also heavily reference Jules Verne in their storytelling and characters, their delight in the mechanics of impossible, anachronistic machines, vehicles and journeys, and in privileging the fantastical over the mundane.

This season of imported and restored prints also contains a superb Zeman-esque short film by Melbourne filmmaker Anthony Lucas.

Co-presented with the Czech and Slovak Film Festival of Australia in partnership with the Karel Zeman Museum in Prague.

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September 16

7:00PM JOURNEY TO THE BEGINNING OF TIME
Karel Zeman (1955) 93 mins

Anticipating Spielberg’s Jurassic Park by nearly 40 years, Zeman’s first feature to synthesise live action with animation is equal parts delightful boys’ own adventure and gently didactic educational film à la Walking with Dinosaurs. Four boys sail upstream along the river of time, encountering all manner of extinct wildlife in tableaux inspired by the glorious paleoart of Zdeněk Burian.

Digital restoration courtesy of the Karel Zeman Museum.


Preceded by

A Christmas Dream
Karel Zeman, Bořivoj Zeman, Hermína Týrlová (1945) 11 mins.

Zeman’s debut is a delightful and surprising Yuletide toy story.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.


9:00PM THE OUTRAGEOUS BARON MUNCHAUSEN
Karel Zeman (1961) 83 mins

Inspired by Gustave Doré’s engravings in the 1862 edition of Gottfried August Bürger’s book, Zeman’s peerless adaptation is a witty and beautiful succession of colour-tinted marvels of trick photography, perfectly aligned to the grand whimsy of the famed Baron’s (Miloš Kopecký) quicksilver flights of fancy. Zdeněk Liška’s score ranks amongst his greatest. DCP courtesy of the Karel Zeman Museum.

CTEQ ANNOTATION:
Fly Me to the Moon: Love and Lunacy in The Outrageous Baron Munchausen by Cerise Howard

Preceded by

Inspiration
Karel Zeman (1949) 11 mins.

A frustrated fantasist (Zeman himself) looks out through a rainy window, triggering a reverie featuring exquisite glass figurine animation. Scored by Zdeněk Liška.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.

September 23

7:00PM AN INVENTION FOR DESTRUCTION
Karel Zeman (1958) 78 mins M

This astonishing Grand Prix winner at Expo ’58 in Brussels was steampunk long before the term was coined. Drawing on the 1896 novel Facing the Flag, among other works by Jules Verne, it ingeniously adopts the line engraving aesthetic of Édouard Riou and Léon Benett’s illustrations in original editions of Verne’s novels while anticipating the Cold War paranoia and antic derring-do of the imminent James Bond films. Digital restoration courtesy of the Karel Zeman Museum.

CTEQ ANNOTATION
Fly Me to the Moon: Love and Lunacy in The Outrageous Baron Munchausen by Cerise Howard

Preceded by

The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello
Anthony Lucas (2005) 26 mins PG.

This superb Oscar-nominated silhouette animation declares its Melbourne-based maker to be a Vernian fellow traveller.

35mm print courtesy of Madman Entertainment. To be introduced by the filmmaker.


9:15PM A JESTER’S TALE
Karel Zeman (1964) 82 mins

In this satirical take on the Thirty Years’ War, Zeman’s continuing innovations in blending live action, animation and trick photography collide with the nascent Czechoslovak New Wave. A script from one of that movement’s most brilliant and protean talents, Pavel Juráček, and aesthetic inspiration taken from the 17th-century Topographia Germaniae engravings of Matthäus Merian, enliven this star-studded romp, a picaresque affair very much in the anarchic spirit of Jaroslav Hašek’s totemic The Good Soldier Švejk.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.

CTEQ ANNOTATION
Any Way the Wind Blows: ‘A Jester’s Tale’ by Cerise Howard

February 5
OPENING NIGHT

February 12 – February 26
VITTORIO DE SICA: CINEMA, ITALIAN STYLE

March 4 – March 18
LIGHT AND SHADOW: THE MERCURIAL STARDOM OF MARLENE DIETRICH

March 23 – April 6
CAST A DARK SHADOW: THE BEAUTIFUL SADNESS OF DIRK BOGARDE

April 13 – April 29
THE BIG CARNIVAL: THE FILMS OF BILLY WILDER

May 6 – May 20
“LIFE’S PARADE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS”: DOUGLAS SIRK

May 27 – June 10
WILDFLOWERS: DANCING, DESIRE AND FREEDOM IN THE FILMS OF GILLIAN ARMSTRONG

June 17 – July 1
DRIFTING STATES: THE FILMS OF APICHATPONG WEERASETHAKUL

July 8
AT HOME IN THE WORLD: CECIL HOLMES, ACTIVIST FILMMAKER

July 15 – July 29
HIROSHI SHIMIZU: FORGOTTEN MASTER

September 2 – September 16
JEAN COCTEAU: THE POETRY OF DREAMS

September 23 – September 30
QUEERING THE ARCHIVE: THE CINEMA OF BARBARA HAMMER

October 7 – October 14
GALLOWS BACCHANALIAS, FRACTIOUS FAIRY-TALES AND THE RULE OF THREE: THE CINEMA OF JURAJ JAKUBISKO

October 21 – November 4
REACHING BEYOND THE FRAME: THE POETIC CINEMA OF ABBAS KIAROSTAMI

November 11 – November 25
BORSCHT, SAUERKRAUT, GOULASH AND LEMONADE: AN INTRODUCTION TO OSTERNS AND RED WESTERNS

December 2 – December 16
THE LAND IS OURS: YOUSSEF CHAHINE