A manifesto of sorts for the Czech New Wave, this five-part anthology shows off the breadth of expression and the versatility of the movement’s directors. Based on stories by the legendary writer Bohumil Hrabal, the shorts range from the surreally chilling to the caustically observant to the casually romantic, but all have a cutting, wily view of the world. —The Criterion Collection
Vera Chytilová was born on February 2, 1929, in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic). She studied philosophy and architecture in Brno for two years, then worked as a technical draftsman, a designer, a fashion model, a photo re-toucher, then worked as a clapper girl for Barrandov Film Studios in Prague. There she continued as a writer, actress, and assistant director.
She was denied a scholarship, or even a recommendation from Barrandov, but she took the admissions tests at FAMU and was accepted. From 1957-1962 she studied film directing under Otakar Vávra, who also taught Jirí Menzel, Milos Forman, Jan Nemec, and Ivan Passer. In 1962 she graduated as director from Film Academy (FAMU) in Prague. Her graduation film Strop (Ceiling 1962) and the following film Pytel blech (A Bagful of Fleas 1963) were “staged” improvisations with non-actors. In 1966 Chytilova and her husband, Jaroslav Kucera, made a witty surrealist comedy Sedmikrásky… read more
Having finished his studies at the Prague Film School, Jaromil Jireš entered filmmaking at the end of the 1950s with several short films, the most engaging of which was Sál ztracených kroku (The Hall of Lost Steps). In 1963 he made his debut in feature-length films with the picture Křik (The Cry), which earned him a place among the ranks of young directors striving for new content and a new film language. In his debut Jireš reacts to modern film currents, above all to the stylistics of the cinéma vérité, whose elements he utilizes, conscious, of course, of the danger that this can hold for the representation of reality and the expression of truth. The story of The Cry suppresses traditional dramatic structure. It consists of the fragmentary memories of the two main protagonists, a husband and wife, on the day their child is to be born. Arranging individual recollections, combining fictional segments with documentary shots, and using a hidden camera, Jireš… read more
With his debut feature film Closely Watched Trains (1966), Czechoslovakian filmmaker Jirí Menzel became an important member in Czech New Wave cinema and won an Academy Award. Menzel started out as an assistant director and occasional actor for Vera Chytilova following his graduation from the Prague film school F.A.M.U. In 1965, Menzel directed an episode (“The Death of Mr. Baltazar”) for the feature anthology Pearls of the Deep, a tribute to distinguished Czech author Bohumil Hrabal. Later that year, he contributed an episode in a similar tribute to the writings of Josef Skvorecky, Crime at the Girls School. Following the success of Closely Watched Trains, Menzel directed Capricious Summer (1968) and turned in a great performance as a tightrope walker (Menzel is actually an accomplished balancer and performs regularly on-stage). In 1969, he made Larks on a String, considered by many to be his best work. Unfortunately, its critical stance on Communism led to its being banned from release… read more
Jan Němec (July 12, 1936, Prague) is a Czech filmmaker whose most important work dates from the 1960s. Film historian Peter Hames has described him as the “enfant terrible of the Czech New Wave.”
Němec’s career as a filmmaker in the late 1950s when he attended FAMU, the most prestigious institution for film training in Czechoslovakia. At this time, Czechoslovakia was ruled by a puppet government subservient to the USSR and artistic and public expression was subject to censorship and government review. However, thanks largely to the failure of purely propagandist cinema in the early 1950s and the presence of important and powerful people within the Czechoslovak film industry, such as Jan Prochazka, the 1960s led to an internationally acknowledged creative surge in Czechoslovak film that became known as the Czech New Wave, in which Němec played an instrumental part.
As a graduation film, Němec adapted a short story by Arnošt Lustig based on the author’s experience of the… read more
Evald Schorm was born on December 15, 1931 in Prague, and died on December 14, 1988 also in Prague. He spent his childhood and youth on a family homestead in Elbančice near Mladá Vožice where he also attended elementary school. He yearned to become an opera singer but instead, obeying his father’s wishes, he took up studies at a trade school in Tábor in 1946. They expelled him in 1950 for being “a son of a kulak”, and his family was displaced to the town of Zličín. He worked as a tractor driver. In 1951 he was allowed to take his graduation exam and afterwards he earned his living as a builder. He went through military service from 1952 – 1954 and then took up a singing job in the Army Art Company of Vít Nejedlý. He repeatedly attempted to pass entrance exams for acting school but eventually he graduated in film directing at FAMU, under professor Otakar Vávra. Among his schoolmates were Věra Chytilová, JiřI Menzel and Jan Schmidt. His graduate project was the introspective The Tourist… read more