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.
OFFICIAL SELECTION Telluride Film Fest
The political and social upheavals of twentieth-century Czechoslovakia -- war and occupation, the twin specters of Nazism and Communism, the Velvet Revolution -- have never been more intimately rendered than in Jan Šikl's landmark eight-part series Private Century. Composed entirely of family home movies, still photographs, letters, and diaries dating from the 1920s to the 1960s, Private Century explores, in Chekhovian fashion, how sweeping historical events transform the private lives of ordinary people, and how small domestic pleasures can crystallize into profound and enduring memories. A prosperous farmer, an ethnic German citizen of Czechoslovakia, loses his land and his birthright after the 1938 Nazi occupation of Sudetenland; émigrés of the Russian intelligentsia, cast out by Stalin, take root and flourish in Prague; two ambitious artists, a sculptor and a composer, pledge themselves to the Communist State and cause their families to suffer. Šikl deepens the work's psychological complexity by having surviving members comment on their family histories, and also through the use of image and sound in counterpoint -- for example, a 1940s Czech rendition of "Stormy Weather" accompanies scenes from an ill-fated wedding.
The daughter of a prosperous German farmer in Sudetenland, Lili Saisser set her sights on the glitter of Prague, marrying an oral surgeon and living among cosmopolitan society. This episode is based on the childhood memories of Lili's daughter Eva, centering on her parents' strained marriage and the difficulties that ethnic German citizens faced in Czechoslovakia during the war. Richly evocative and intimate, the episode is enlivened by snapshots of a family trip to Nazi Berlin in 1934; home-movie footage of a playful but revealing burlesque farce; and erotic images of the vivacious, but ever self-absorbed, Lili. Directed by Jan Šikl, Czech Republic, 2007, DVD, 52 mins. In Czech with English subtitles.
A STROKE OF BUTTERFLY WINGS
Of all the families depicted in Private Century, perhaps none was more deeply or painfully riven by generational and ideological conflict than the Felixes. This episode traces the political awakening and gradual disillusionment of the prolific and noted Czech composer Václav Felix from the 1930s until the 1980s. The film reveals the ways in which Václav's unquestioning faith in Communism shaped both his music and his romantic life, even as it estranged him from his father, who was imprisoned by the Party. Directed by Jan Šikl. Czech Republic, 2007, DVD, 52 mins. In Czech with English subtitles.
Parts 3 & 4 at 7pm
SMALL RUSSIAN CLOUDS OF SMOKE
A fascinating look at a community of wealthy and cultured Russians who escaped the Bolshevik Revolution and settled in Czechoslovakia during the 1920s and 1930s. With dreams of soon returning home, these fiercely proud expatriates preserved their culture and their language by setting up social clubs, churches, schools, and cooperative housing, and by spending idyllic summers at a Russian boarding house in southern Bohemia. Edited together from home movies, this episode features rare glimpses of Russian émigré society. Directed by Jan Šikl, Czech Republic, 2007, DVD, 52 mins. In Czech with English subtitles.
Tána Palejko (née Popov) reminisces about her marriage to an ace fighter pilot in the Czechoslovakian army -- a charismatic, ambitious man whose heavy drinking, fits of jealousy, and infidelities would ultimately drive them apart. This episode features remarkable aerial shots taken clandestinely from a MIG fighter jet, as well as footage of a remote military training camp in the Soviet Union where drunken soldiers carouse with Russian girls to while away the lonely hours. 2007. Czech Republic. Directed by Jan Šikl, 2007, Czech Republic, DVD, 52 mins. In Czech with English subtitles.
Sundays, May 3 & May 10
Parts 5 & 6 at 2pm
KING OF VELICHOVKY
For as long as anyone could remember, Czechs and Germans in the border region of Sudetenland had lived together in relative peace. But the 1938 Nazi occupation of Sudetenland forever changed all that, turning neighbor against neighbor and friend into foe. This is a portrait of the Sudeten German Karel Saisser, a prosperous and demanding farmer who lived with his wife and three daughters near the spa town of Velichovky. Directed by Jan Šikl, 2007, Czech Republic, DVD, 52 mins. In Czech with English subtitles.
STATUARY OF GRANDAD VINDA
Vincenc Havel, a sculptor who lived in the Opava region of northern Moravia in the 1950's, was as hard and as immovable as the statues he carved. An eccentric nonconformist, in the early 1950's he nonetheless received some favorable recognition from the state for his Socialist Realist sculpture of the reviled president Klement Gottwald. But Havel's opportunism, and the special treatment given him, did not sit well with his fellow artists, and in later years he grew increasingly withdrawn, inflicting much of his bitterness on his own daughter. This episode is drawn from Havel's home movies and diaries, and is also based on the recollections of his granddaughter Eva. Directed by Jan Šikl, 2007, Czech Republic, DVD, 52 mins. In Czech with English subtitles.
Parts 7 & 8 at 5pm
SEE YOU IN DENVER
As a child living in prewar Prague, Frantisek Cvancaru loved watching American Westerns and slapstick comedies in his father's chain of cinemas. When the Communist nationalization of the Czech film industry took away the family business, Frantisek satisfied his cinematic obsessions by shooting his own movies, until he was banned from school and unjustly imprisoned. Swept up in the momentous events of 1968, he decided to emigrate to the country of his silver-screen dreams. Directed by Jan Šikl, 2007, Czech Republic, DVD, 52 mins. In Czech with English subtitles.
WITH KISSES FROM YOUR LOVE
Based on family films and impassioned letters from the 1940s and 1950s, this episode relates the story of high-school sweethearts Marie and Josef Sechtl, who married after the war and inherited the photography studio that had belonged to Josef's family for several generations. After the 1948 Communist takeover, the Sechtls lived in constant fear of losing their studio and their family's treasured, irreplaceable archive of photographs dating back to the late-nineteenth century. But nothing, not even show trials and prison, could extinguish their profound love. Directed by Jan Šikl, 2007, Czech Republic, DVD, 52 mins. In Czech with English subtitles.