The Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. For more information on films playing in the Cinémathèque, please call 773-281-4114. To order advance tickets online, visit the TicketWeb website by clicking here.
CZECH MODERNISM IN FILM: THE 1920'S TO THE 1940's
"Some of the best movies you've never heard of...these 12 archival prints give ample evidence of a surprisingly worldly world-class cinema." -Village Voice
"Facets' series of neglected Czech films is a revelation." -Time Out Chicago
The Facets Cinémathèque is proud to present Czech Modernism in Film: The 1920s to the 1940s. While Czech cinema is best known for its fertile New Wave period in the 1960s, the country has always had a rich cinematic history. This twelve-film retrospective examines the period of Czech Modernism from the era between the wars until the Communist takeover in 1948. The series is produced and co-curated by Irena Kovarova. The series runs the gamut from silent classics, dramas, and satirical comedies to works of social criticism, all in archival prints from the National Film Archive in Prague and the Anthology Film Archive in New York. Highlights include two films by the hugely influential Gustav Machatý, the silent, rarely seen The Kreutzer Sonata, and the better known, From Saturday to Sunday. Portrayals of strong-willed women include the renowned Tonka of the Gallows with Ita Rina of Erotikon fame in the lead role Faithless Marijka with non-professional actors in most of the roles (in a newly struck and subtitled print), and Virginity, the feature debut of the doyen of Czech cinema, director Otakar Vávra. Czech cinema also produced great social issue films, such as the socialist realist piece The Strike (subtitled for the first time in history on a newly struck print) and The Distant Journey, credited as being among the first feature films that dealt with the Holocaust in a narrative form of cinema.
Czech Modernism in Film was produced and co-curated by Irena Kovarova for BAMcinématek and National Gallery of Art. Film prints provided by National Film Archive and Anthology Film Archive. Additional support provided by the Czech Center New York. Film notes BAM and Irena Kovarova.
All films are in Czech with English subtitles, unless otherwise noted.
"On one hand, the movie's sly jokes and eccentric musical numbers suggest the Popular Front fantasies made by contemporary French filmmakers. On the other, it's strikingly detached and analytical in its film language-with an abundance of high-angle shots and a highly contrapuntal use of sound." -Village Voice
One of the great masterpieces of early Czech sound cinema, this experimental classic combines elements of Soviet montage, Buñuelian surrealism, and Czech politics in this examination of a state home for children. The plot is nominally about the arrival of new kids from a broken home, but this is just a framework for a series of otherworldly tableaus, frightening set design, and ahead-of-their-time camera angles that make the whole film an exercise rich in symbolism and imagery. With Jindřich Plachta, Václav Vydra, Zdeňka Gräfová.
Directed by Vladislav Vančura, Czechoslovakia, 1933, 35mm, 76 mins.
The only Czech film to win the main prize at the Venice International Film Festival, The Strike takes its story from real events in 1889 to depict a mining family struggling with debt and alcoholism. Their problems grow as the father is fired because of his connections with the unions, and the strike takes its toll. A fascinating piece of Czech Communist ideology, the film also possesses a sooty, blackened realism that is remarkable for the post-WWII era. The film will be presented with English subtitles for the first time in a newly struck print.
Directed by Karel Steklý, Czechoslovakia, 1947, 35mm, 83 mins.
Fri., Feb. 16 at 8:30 pm
TONKA OF THE GALLOWS
Originally shot as a silent film, sound was added later to make this Czechoslovakia's first sound film. Tonka stars the beautiful Ita Rina (the lead in Erotikon) as a reluctant prostitute who volunteers to stay the night in prison with a condemned man. But after this act of charity she is turned away from the brothel, and viewed as a bad omen, as portrayed through Anton's vivid expressionist camerawork. With Ita Rina and Vera Baranovskaia.
Directed by Karel Anton, Czechoslovakia, 1930, 35mm, 84 mins.
The film will be presented in the original silent version with musical soundtrack and French intertitles with English subtitles.
Sat., Feb. 17 at 7 pm
FROM SATURDAY TO SUNDAY
(ZE SOBOTY NA NEDĚLI)
"Pleasantly experimental" -Village Voice
"Notable for its hallucinatory rendering of Prague by night." -Time Out Chicago
Recommended! "This compact melodrama takes a sophisticated approach to love, treating sex frankly and romance skeptically" -Chicago Reader
Machatý, a master at conveying sexuality in Pre-Code cinema, makes his first sound film a simple tale of a young woman attracted by the glamour of the champagne set, only to find herself repulsed when she is offered money for sex. Fleeing the scene she runs into a good-hearted workingman, whose simple decency wins her over. Like Lang's M, this is a fantastic example of a silent director embracing sound and using it creatively, as Machatý does with an innovative score by jazz great Jaroslav Jezek. With L. H. Struna, Magda Maderová.
Directed by Gustav Machatý, Czechoslavakia, 1931, 35mm, 72 mins.
After several years in Hollywood working with Griffith and Von Stroheim, Machatÿ returned to Czechoslovakia to direct his first feature film, The Kreutzer Sonata. Based on the Tolstoy novel, the film recounts in flashback the story of a wealthy man who confesses to killing his wife, while at the same time denouncing the hypocrisy of contemporary society. Machatý employs a flamboyant style reminiscent of Expressionism that he would later perfect with Erotikon. With Eva Byronová, Jan W. Speerger, Miroslav Paul.
Directed by Gustav Machatý, Czechoslovakia, 1926, 35mm, 95 mins.
Screening with live piano accompaniment by David Drazen and the Czech titles will be read aloud in English.
Sun., Feb. 18 at 2 pm
SUCH IS LIFE
"Transcendently simple" -Time Out Chicago
Such is Life can best be summed up by its subtitle, "A Novel About Prague Washerwomen." Creating cinematic poetry from the poverty in the streets, Junghans shot on location this story about a washerwoman, her no-good husband, and her remarkable resilience in the face of tragedy. This is an early precursor to the Czech realist tradition; imagine if Murnau had shot Sunrise on location, and you have some idea of its beauty. With Vera Baranovskaya, Theodor Pištěk.
Directed by Karl Junghans, Czechoslovakia, 1929, 35mm, 73 mins.
Screening with live piano accompaniment by David Drazen and the Czech titles will be read aloud in English.
Sun., Feb. 18 at 4:30 pm
Director's Prize Venice Film Fest
With a tempo as unhurried and pleasant as the meandering stream of the title, The River follows a young boy through several vignettes depicting his love for a village girl, resulting in a furious battle with a fish, and a brief misunderstanding. Yet while Rovenskÿ paints this portrait of country folk with bold strokes, the film never descends into parody, remaining a gentle tribute to the simplicities and beauty of small town life.
Directed by Josef Rovenskÿ, Czechoslovakia, 1934, 35mm, 88 mins. With Jarmila Beránková and Václav Jalovec.
"One of the finest political documentaries ever made...the things he had shown forecast the future" -New York Times, 1939
Recommended! "Still packs a wallop" -Chicago Reader
An incredible document of the times, Herbert Kline (an American) worked with Czech directors Alexander Hackenschmied (a.k.a. Sasha Hammid) and Hans Burger to produce this documentary about the rise of Nazi fascism and its threat to Czechoslovakia. Its immediacy remains startling even today; this is no newsreel, but a desperate attempt to warn of a nation's danger. It premiered in New York City just two days before Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany. The film, his feature debut as co-director, was ultimitely a reason for Hammid to emigrate to the United States where he became the founder of American experimental cinema with his wife Maya Deren.
Directed by Herbert Kline, Czechoslovakia, 1938, 71 mins. In English.
Recommended! "Like a Laurel and Hardy version of Sullivan's Travels" -Chicago Reader
Bearing more than a passing resemblance to Renoir's Popular Front films, this film is a rarely seen combination of socialist comment and riotous laughter; imagine the Marx brothers taking their name politically and you have some idea of the joys of Heave Ho!. Generally considered one of the best cinema outings by famous slapstick duo of Voskovec and Werich, the plot concerns an industrialist and labor organizer working together to create their own socialist nirvana. The auteur duo of Voskovec and Werich spent the WWII years in political exile in America. After the war Werich returned to Czechoslovakia while Voskovec stayed in New York. Voskovec became one of the stars of Sidney Lumet's acclaimed film 12 Angry Men. Sadly the Communist regime never allowed for the influential artistic duo to reconnect. With Jiří Voskovec, Jan Werich.
Directed by Martin Frič, Czechoslovakia, 1934, 35mm, 87 mins.
Tues., Feb. 20 at 7 pm
Thurs., Feb. 22 at 9 pm
A shimmering tragedy in the Hollywood mold, Virginity concerns a beautiful young woman prepared to sell herself into marriage to obtain money for her dying lover's treatment, while the camera tracks through gaudy nightclubs and overstuffed apartments. This is one of the first films by the great Vávra, a leading fixture in Czech cinema who, at the age of 95 is still directing films! With Lída Baarová, Ladislav Boháč.
Directed by Otakar Vávra, Czechoslovakia, 1937, 35mm, 84 mins.
"Fascinating from an ethnographic point of view...an evocation of the wild Carpathian landscape." -Village Voice
A breathtaking drama about life lived on the edge of civilization, Faithless Marijka takes place in mountain solitude where a young woodcutter must journey into the woods, leaving his young wife with another man. The film was shot in the Carpathian mountains of the Western Ukraine, using local people as actors against the striking vistas, and also features a score by prominent Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů, a long-time New Yorker himself. With Anna Škelebejová, Petro Birčak.
Directed by Vladislav Vancura, Czechoslovakia, 1934, 35mm, 76 mins. In Czech, Ruthinian, Slovak and Yiddish with English subtitles.
"Audacious and grotesque, the movie looks back to Caligari and forward to the unsettling puppet animation of Jan Svankmajer." -Village Voice
"The most brilliant, the most powerful and horrifying film on the Nazis' persecution of Jews that this reviewer has yet seen [as of 1950]...A quality of nightmare and madness builds up as the film goes along, until the final episodes of mass destruction cause a hypnosis of insanity." -New York Times
"One of the most innovative films ever made about the Holocaust...Journey makes every screen the poorer for not having shown it." -Time Out Chicago
Recommended! -Chicago Reader
Confronting the horrors of history head on, Radok and his crew shot this first feature film about the Holocaust just three years after the war ended. The film combines actual footage with reenactments and Expressionist camera setups to create a vivid, immediate look at the concentration camps. With Blanka Waleská, Otomar Krejča.
Directed by Alfred Radok, Czechoslovakia, 1949, 35mm, 103 mins.