27 September – 11 October

“ALL THE WORLD’S BEDLAM”: SCREWBALL, CZECHOSLOVAK STYLE

This season charts 50 years of a peculiarly antic, extraordinarily inventive strain of popular comedy from Czechoslovakia, spanning the late silent era through to the end of the 1970s. It highlights the extraordinary comedic talents of performers still famed domestically but too little known in the anglophone world, like Vlasta Burian, Nataša Gollová, Oldřich Nový, Vladimír Menšík, Iva Janžurová and Jiří Sovák, as well as the comedic gifts of the proto-“Hitchcock blonde”, Anny Ondra (Blackmail, 1929) and 12 Angry Men’s (1957) George (Jiří) Voskovec, whose partner in the hugely influential “V+W” double-act, Jan Werich, was to have been the first screen Blofeld (James Bond’s nemesis). The nation’s greatest comedy directors are represented, with two ’30s works from Martin Frič – the dizzying screwball classic, Eva Fools Around (1939) and the socially committed V+W slapstick vehicle, Heave Ho! (1934) – and one apiece from high-concept “bláznivá komedie” (“crazy comedy”) specialists Oldřich Lipský and Václav Vorlíček. The season opens with Lipský’s singularly audacious Happy End (1978), which runs backwards and forwards simultaneously, paired with Svatopluk Innemann’s glorious, restored silent comedy starring two Vlasta Burians and a single, indelible Anny Ondra, An Old Gangster’s Molls (1927). Also included: Vorlíček’s berserk body-swap ensemble farce You Are a Widow, Sir (1971) and Ikarie XB 1 (1963) director Jindřich Polák’s ingenious time travel comedy, Tomorrow I’ll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea (1977) – all three co-scripted by the great Miloš Macourek. Hilarity will ensue.

Presented in partnership with the Czech and Slovak Film Festival of Australia.

Wednesday 27 September

7:00pm HAPPY END
Oldřich Lipský (1967) 71 mins – Unclassified 15+

Death is just the beginning in this black comedy about a butcher who murders his wife and her lover. Literally told in reverse, it begins with its protagonist’s guillotined head reattaching itself to its body as its owner (played by prolific Czech actor Vladimír Menšík) declares this his “birth”. Lipský (Lemonade Joe) treats us to an absurdist life, with slapstick elements borrowed from Chaplin and Keaton, in which time’s ravages are reversed: jealousies undone, young love reattained.

Preceded by The Robber (1927) 6 mins – Unclassified 15+. A funny short promotional film for An Old Gangster’s Molls.

Digital prints courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.

CTEQ ANNOTATION
It’s About Time We All Met a Happy End (Oldřich Lipský, 1967)
by Cerise Howard


8:35pm AN OLD GANGSTER’S MOLLS
Svatopluk Innemann (1927) 106 mins – Unclassified 15+

This helter-skelter silent screwball comedy classic is a breathless mélange of assumed and mistaken identities, chase sequences, doppelgängers and fantasised murders. Anny Ondra (the original “Hitchcock blonde” in 1929’s Blackmail) puts in a hilarious turn as Fifi, one of the great screen flappers, opposite gangly Czech comic genius Vlasta Burian, who appears in two roles. With cinematography by the great Otto Heller (The Crimson Pirate), this 2014 restoration features a score perfectly attuned to the mayhem by contemporary Czech silent film music specialists, Neuvěřitelno.

Digital print courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.

CTEQ ANNOTATION
Czechoslovakia’s King and Queen of Comedy: Anny Ondra and Vlasta Burian in An Old Gangster’s Molls (Svatopluk Innermann, 1927)
by Shari Kizirian

Wednesday 4 October

7:00pm EVA FOOLS AROUND
Martin Frič (1939) 90 mins – Unclassified 15+

Filmed in just a few weeks at Prague’s Barrandov Studios, this adaptation of the 1934 novel by Fan Vavřincová is considered one of Frič’s best movies and amongst the most popular Czech comedies of all time. Structured around a farcical screwball plot involving the purloining of a neighbour’s instructions for rose growing, this co-stars one of the most famous actors in Czech cinema, Oldřich Nový, as well as emerging star Nataša Gollová in one of her first headlining roles.

Digital print courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.


8:45pm YOU ARE A WIDOW, SIR
Václav Vorlíček (1971) 97 mins – Unclassified 15+

This bizarre, psychedelic take on the body-swap comedy sees Iva Janžurová (best known for her lead role in Juraj Herz’s Morgiana) play an assassin with the cloned body of a famous actress and the transplanted mind of a male serial killer. Despite a clear anti-monarchist stance in its parody of inter-kingdom diplomatic conflict, Vorlíček’s film’s surreal logic defies easy explanation, with its mise en scène built around the overwhelming pop-art styled sets by production designer Oldřich Bosák (Closely Watched Trains and The Cassandra Cat).

Digital print courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.

Wednesday 11 October

7:00pm TOMORROW I’LL WAKE UP AND SCALD MYSELF WITH TEA
Jindřich Polák (1977) 93 mins – Unclassified 15+

This madcap, sci-fi time-travel film set in the 1990s details a plot by neo-Nazis to journey back in time to furnish Hitler with the hydrogen bomb and change the course of history. Polák (Ikarie XB 1) fuses the delightfully silly with the ingenious, the fantastical trappings of science fiction with the physical reality of then present-day Prague, all accompanied by a wonderfully lively score by composer Karel Svoboda. As characters move dizzyingly back and forth across time, encountering earlier and later versions of themselves, the paradoxes pile up and history stands on a precipice.

Digital print courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague.

CTEQ ANNOTATION
Tomorrow I’ll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea (Jindřich Polák, 1977)
by Danica van de Velde


8:45pm HEAVE HO!
Martin Frič (1934) 103 mins – Unclassified 15+

Stars of Prague’s avant-garde Liberated Theatre, Jiří Voskovec and Jan Werich wrote this Depression-era slapstick unionist comedy with director Frič and legendary screenwriter Václav Wasserman. The revered “V+W” double-act play, respectively, a workers’ rep who goes off-script live-to-air and a bankrupted factory owner who team up to make something of their and others’ lives. Often compared to René Clair’s À nous la liberté and Chaplin’s City Lights, it also parodies Eisenstein’s The General Line and was banned during the Nazi occupation.

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

CTEQ ANNOTATION
Heave Ho! (Martin Frič, 1934)
by Faith Everard

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