September 12 – September 26


Dubbed “the first lady of Czech film”, the famously combative Věra Chytilová (1929–2014) will forever rank amongst cinema’s most uncompromising and protean iconoclasts. A key figure in the Czechoslovak New Wave, she enlisted as the sole woman studying film production at Prague’s legendary film school, FAMU, where she was accepted despite informing her examiners that she found their films boring.

Collaborating with fellow catalysing personalities of the New Wave – including her second husband, the brilliant cinematographer Jaroslav Kučera; writer and visual artist Ester Krumbachová; and editor Miroslav Hájek – she made waves at home and abroad with films that privileged women’s subjectivity, drew upon her lapsed Catholicism and played with cinematic form and aesthetics with a growing adventurousness, reaching experimental apotheoses (and garnering strident official condemnation) with 1966’s Daisies and 1969’s Fruit of Paradise, central films in this season. Unlike many, Chytilová remained in Czechoslovakia after 1968’s Soviet crushing of the Prague Spring. An open letter to “Comrade President” Gustáv Husák demanding she be allowed to make films again elicited worldwide support in 1975; her filmmaking career, stalled since 1969 due to opprobrium from above, soon resumed. As this season of imported prints will demonstrate, her lesser-known subsequent films are no less engaged with societal and women’s issues, nor are they any less provocative than her celebrated films of the ’60s.

Co-presented with the Czech and Slovak Film Festival of Australia.

September 12

7:00pm – DAISIES
Věra Chytilová (1966) 73 mins – Unclassified 15 +*

The film most emblematic of the freedoms afforded artists by the then imminent Prague Spring, Chytilová’s best-known film is a glorious Dadaist revolt against dominant narrative genres and modes of representation. Two young women embark upon an anarchic rampage, joyously exploiting a string of hapless men; chaos and wanton destruction ensue.

This Film’s Going Bad: Collaborative Cutting in ‘Daisies’ by Dylan Rainforth.

Preceded by

A Bagful of Fleas
Věra Chytilová (1962) 45 mins Unclassified 15 +*

Shot in a teenage girls boarding school attached to a cotton mill, this quasi-vérité short anticipates both Daisies and Miloš Forman’s A Blonde in Love.

Attendance Is Obligatory: ‘A Bagful of Fleas’ by Bedatri D. Choudhury.

Digital prints of both films courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.

Věra Chytilová (1976) 92 mins – M

Chytilová’s belated return to filmmaking after the suppression of the Prague Spring is a remarkable feminist screwball comedy set around a maternity ward. Forgoing the more experimental approaches to film form and aesthetics that characterised her late ’60s work, it nonetheless includes no shortage of startling imagery. Fellow New Wave director Jiří Menzel stars as a nerdy, philandering ob-gyn opposite a quixotic young nurse played by Dagmar Bláhová (Maria Ramsay in the original 1985 series of Neighbours on Channel 7!).

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

September 19

Věra Chytilová (1963) 81 mins – Unclassified 15 +*

Concordant with the faraway burgeoning of second-wave feminism, Chytilová’s debut feature intertwines an ostensible documentary on champion gymnast Eva Bosáková with veristic but dramatised scenes from the life of a frustrated housewife. Both are strikingly shot by Jan Čuřík; the jazzy soundtrack is courtesy of the Semafor theatre’s Jiří Šlitr.

‘Something Different’ by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster.

Preceded by
Věra Chytilová (1961) 41 mins Unclassified 15 +*

Chytilová’s celebrated FAMU graduation film is an Antonioniesque, semi-documentary portrait of the boredom and objectification endured by a fashion model.

Digital prints of both films courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.

Věra Chytilová (1979) 96 mins – Unclassified 15 +*

This scathing and often very funny rubbishing of life under Normalisation (1969–1987) has had scant exposure abroad; the local authorities did their utmost to suppress it domestically for many years, too. Working once more with Jaromír Šofr, her cameraman from Ceiling and A Bagful of Fleas, Chytilová presents a frantic, wide-angled, noisy mosaic of life at a monstrous, underdone, debris-ridden high-rise housing estate on Prague’s outskirts, cocking a vicious snook at its Potemkin village pretensions to community building.

Digital print courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.

‘Prefab Story’: Farcical Times at a Prague High-rise by Cerise Howard.

September 26

Věra Chytilová (1969) 96 mins – Unclassified 15 +*

The most experimental film of the Czechoslovak New Wave had Chytilová again collaborating with her Daisies cohort of cinematographer Jaroslav Kučera, screenwriter and costume designer Ester Krumbachová, and editor Miroslav Hájek, in addition to the Studio Ypsilon theatre troupe. In this gnomic and wildly psychedelic farewell to the Summer of Love-like ambience and freedoms of the Prague Spring, Edenic mythology feeds into an absurdist, richly symbolic, relationship-cum-serial-killer drama, accompanied throughout by a rapturous Zdeněk Liška score.

Digital print courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.

‘Fruit of Paradise’ by Stefan Solomon.

8:45pm – TRAPS
Věra Chytilová (1998) 124 mins – Unclassified 18 + †

This under-seen, pitch-black farce ranks amongst the director’s most provocative and unforgettable films, as fiercely feminist as it is nonetheless ribald and pessimistic. Burlesquing the rape-revenge genre, it concerns a veterinarian and the fallout from the very particular vengeance she obtains after being sexually assaulted by a corrupt MP and a slimy advertising executive. Chytilová’s antepenultimate fiction film is a family affair, with camerawork from son Štěpán Kučera and costuming by daughter Tereza Kučerová. With Dagmar Bláhová.

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

Comedy and the Castratrice: Věra Chytilová’s ‘Traps’ by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas.