September 14 – September 21

DESPATCHES FROM THE RADICAL LITERARY CZECHOSLOVAK CINEMA OF THE ’60s

Czechoslovakia had long tapped home-grown literature as a fecund wellspring for its cinema, but the thawing of Soviet censorship in the 1960s, coterminous with state subsidisation of film production and cooperation across an unprecedentedly rich pool of intergenerational talent, gave rise to a spate of extraordinarily vital new literary adaptations. In this season of imported titles, courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague, eight key directors of the 1960s adapt the work of three major 20th-century authors in three innovative films that made huge strides away from the stifling demands of Soviet socialist realism.

In the omnibus film Pearls of the Deep, five alumni of Prague’s storied film school FAMU — Jiří Menzel, Jan Němec, Evald Schorm, Věra Chytilová and Jaromil Jireš—each adapted a short story by Bohumil Hrabal in what came to be considered a manifesto for the Czechoslovak New Wave. Amongst their lecturers at FAMU, Elmar Klos’ Death is Called Engelchen, co-directed with regular partner Ján Kadár and based on Slovak writer Ladislav Mňačko’s memoiristic WWII novel, is scarcely less groundbreaking, expressive or urgent than his students’ work. František Vláčil was more of an outlier, belonging to a generation between Kadár and Klos, and FAMU’s star alumni. Newly digitally restored in 4K, Marketa Lazarová, Vláčil’s adaptation of murdered avant-garde polymath Vladislav Vančura’s same-named 1931 novel, is finally receiving its due recognition as a peerlessly hypnotic, otherworldly Middle Ages masterpiece.

This season will be supplemented by further thematically linked films in the programme for the 2016 Czech and Slovak Film Festival, in partnership with the Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature Office.

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

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September 14

7:00PM – PEARLS OF THE DEEP
Jiří Menzel, Jan Němec, Evald Schorm,Věra Chytilová, Jaromil Jireš (1966) 105 mins
Unclassified 15+ Unless accompanied by an adult

In one of the great anthology films, five leading lights of the burgeoning Czechoslovak New Wave each adapted a story from the recent, if long delayed, debut publication of Bohumil Hrabal, the most revered Czech writer of his generation. Each finds cinematic analogues for Hrabal’s iconoclastic adoption of vernacular language, celebrations of individual idiosyncrasy and affinity for the absurd, as shot by Jaroslav Kučera, the talismanic cinematographer of the New Wave. Hrabal enjoys a cameo in each segment, while Menzel’s is his feature debut and the first of many collaborations with the author.

DCP courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.


8:55PM – DEATH IS CALLED ENGELCHEN

Ján Kadár, Elmar Klos (1963) 129 mins
Unclassified 15+ Unless accompanied by an adult

Structurally reminiscent of Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour, this existential, nonlinear, taboo-busting work is based on Ladislav Mňačko’s bestseller, which drew on his experiences in the Slovak partisan resistance movement during WWII and sugar-coated none of it. Paralysed, lying prostrate in a hospital bed, a despondent young man (Jan Kačer) is haunted by flashbacks of his time as an idealistic guerrilla fighter battling occupying Nazi forces in Moravia. Rudolf Milič’s adroit handheld camerawork and Zdeněk Liška’s plangent score lend an atmosphere of dread and urgency to a film of rare sophistication and power.

DCP courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.

September 21

7:00PM – MARKETA LAZAROVÁ

František Vláčil
 (1967) 165 mins
Unclassified 15+ Unless accompanied by an adult

Nowadays often proclaimed the greatest Czech film ever made, this dense, hallucinatory medieval epic, pitting clan against clan and Christians against Pagans, is a nearly 3-hour long rush of indelible, high contrast, black-and-white ’Scope imagery, shot with an ever prowling camera, edited furiously and constantly switching between objective and subjective points-of-view. Trying to keep up with the labyrinthine plot—even if its dizzying twists and turns are telegraphed in ornately worded chapter headings—is secondary to giving in to the film’s experiential potency, as Vláčil’s painstaking insistence on 13th-century period exactitude and hardscrabble brutality is raised, by stunning atmospherics inclusive of a majestic Zdeněk Liška choral-electronic score, to the order of the sublime. Starring the luminous Magda Vášáryová as the eponymous Marketa.

4K digital restoration courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.

7 February
OPENING NIGHT 2024

7 February – 21 February
FROM THE BOULEVARDS OF PARIS TO THE DOCKS OF CHERBOURG: LANDMARKS OF THE FRENCH FILM MUSICAL

28 February – 13 March
'LIVING MAY BE TRAGIC, BUT LIFE ISN'T': THE FILMS OF THE TAVIANI BROTHERS

20 March – 3 April
IN THE AFTERGLOW: THE MERCURIAL STARDOM OF GLORIA GRAHAME

Wednesday 10 April
MAN OF THE CINEMA: A TRIBUTE TO JOHN FLAUS AT 90

17 April – 1 May
KEEP ROLLING: ANN HUI'S COUNTER-CINEMA

8 May – 22 May
"ALL ART IS ONE": THE VISIONARY CINEMA OF MICHAEL POWELL AND EMERIC PRESSBURGER

29 May – 12 June
WRITING WITH HER EYES: SUSO CECCHI D'AMICO, SCREENWRITER AS OBSERVER

19 June – 3 July
THE HOUSE THAT MOHSEN BUILT: THE FILMS OF SAMIRA MAKHMALBAF, MARZIEH MESHKINI AND MOHSEN MAKHMALBAF

10 July – 24 July
THE PAIN OF LIVING: JEAN EUSTACHE, BEING CINEMA

Wednesday 31 July
BETWEEN THE WAVE AND REVOLUTION: THE RETURN OF RIVETTE’S LEGENDARY L’AMOUR FOU

4–18 September
BLIND BEASTS, RED ANGELS AND HOODLUM SOLDIERS: THE IRRESISTIBLE CINEMA OF YASUZO MASUMURA

25 September – 9 October
JIŘÍ MENZEL: MAKING COMEDIES IS NO FUN

16–23 October
OF MEN AND MONSTERS: THE CINEMA OF NIKOS KOUNDOUROS

Wednesday 30 October
CONTESTED HISTORIES: THE DOCUMENTARIES OF JENI THORNLEY

6–20 November
THE FIRST AND LAST OF ENGLAND: THE QUEER LEGACIES OF DEREK JARMAN

Wednesday 27 November
PARADING THE PAST: RECENT ERNST LUBITSCH RESTORATIONS

4–11 December
THE SEEDS OF CHANGE: THE DOCUMENTARIES OF TOM ZUBRYCKI

Wednesday 18 December
CARLTON AND BEYOND: THE MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY FILM SOCIETY IN THE 1960s