La rassegna cinematografica


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Prague. From one spring to the next. Film festival
15 - 24 January 2009
curated by Francesco Pitassio

in collaboration with
Národní filmový archiv, Prague
Ministry of Check Republic Foreign Affairs
Department of Middle East Languages and Culture, Università di Udine

The exhibition is complemented by a retrospective festival of films curated by Francesco Pitassio, focusing on films made between 1968 and the onset of "normalization". Even though four decades have gone by since the social and political experiment known as the Prague Spring came to such a tragic end, a great deal still remains from that "happy season". The films screened all share one feature: they were all made in the runup to the new political season or after the constraints of censorship had been lifted, and they were all banned and impossible to view after the end of the Prague Spring experiment. Several have an extraordinary story behind them: in some instances filming began amid the political uncertainty that followed the Soviet invasion, then the films were set aside unfinished, hidden amid reels of archive footage, and only taken out and mounted 20 years later, like some message in a bottle for the benefit of posterity.
Grassroots participation in the push for social change in the sixties was also expressed through the film industry as it dwelled on the present and recent past.  The industry looked back to the Stalinist era to explore its impact on everyday anthropology in, for instance, Tutti i miei bravi compaesani (1968), Lo scherzo (1968), Cerimonia funebre (1969-1990) and Le allodole sul filo (1969-1990). The cinema was also picking up the thread of the avant-garde movement in vogue between the two world wars, a thread that had never completely snapped.  This dense, fertile strain weaves its way in and out of the plot of many of the movies, in some cases even underpinning the entire structure.   We can see this, for instance, in the extraordinary work of Jan Švankmajer, who is closer to the Prague surrealist group; but also in the work of eccentric documentary maker Karel Vachek, who is capable of taking the game of politics to the heights of cosmic comedy with an ironic and disenchanted gaze that worms its way into the depiction of reality, keeping the tragedy of a pitifully recurrent history at arm's length.

Cinema hall
entrance stairway of via Milano 9A
ticket: full price € 4.00 - reduced member PdE € 3.00


La-storia-per-otto 15 January, 9.00 p.m.
The Story by Eight (Dìjiny na osm)
by Václav Táborský. 1968 (10 min)
An ironic documentary dating back to 1968, noting the frequency with which the number 8 crops up in Czech history: the republic was founded in 1918, the Sudetenland was lost in 1938, and the Czechoslovak Communist Party staged its coup d'état in 1948.  Reality, however, was somewhat less comical, and Warsaw Pact troops crossed the border in 1968, snuffing out the Spring revolution and relegating this documentary to the archives till 1989.
Al-fuoco-pompieri_01 FOLLOWED BY
The Firemen's Ball and Lottery (Hoøí, má panenko)
by Miloš Forman. 1967 - original version with italian subtitles (72 min)
A ball in honor of a retired chief fireman lurches from accident to comic mischief, finally ending in a fully-fledged fire.  This film, which was the fourth time Forman and screenwriters Jaroslav Papoušek and Ivan Passer worked together, is quite simply the team's most acerbic and exhilarating work:  a slap in the face for the rituals of society.
Jan-69 16 January, 9.00 p.m.
Jan 69
by Stanislav Milota.  1969 (8 min)
This documentary, filmed in semi-clandestine circumstances in order to avoid being seized by the political police, has only just resurfaced from the archives of the Czech national cinéthèque.  It focuses on the impact that young student Jan Palach's sacrifice of his own life had at the grassroots level.
Tutti-i-miei-bravi-compaesani FOLLOWED BY
All My Good Countrymen (Všichni dobøí rodáci)
by Vojtìch Jasný. 1968 - original version with italian subtitles (115 min)
The traumatic changes that took place following the collectivization of farm work and the brutality of totalitarian power are illustrated in this film with exceptional creativity and intensity of expression, combining an elegiac mood with a reflection on history.  This movie is the masterpiece of a director who represents perhaps better than any other the generation that started out in the film industry in the suffocating climate of the 1950's.
il-giardino_regista-Jan-Svankmajer 17 January, 9.00 p.m.
The Garden (Zahrada)
by Jan Švankmajer. 1968 - original version with italian subtitles (17 min)
A man goes to visit an old friend who lives in the country.  The charming country house, however, is a little out of the ordinary.  The owner smugly strokes large rabbits, while the fence surrounding the garden is a rather different kettle of fish from your run-of-the-mill garden fence...
Lo-scherzo FOLLOWED BY
The Joke (Žert)
by Jaromil Jireš. 1968 - original version with italian subtitles (78 min)
Based on Milan Kundera's masterpiece, this is the story of Ludvík Jahn, a man who, after making a casual quip at university, gained first-hand experience of the senseless cruelty of political persecution in a labor camp.  Now a set of circumstances have placed him in a position where he can get his own back on his erstwhile accuser.  But with Kundera, there is always a tragicomic side to history.
Affinità-elettive 18 January, 9.00 p.m.
Elective Affinities (Spøížnĕní volbou)
by Karel Vachek. 1968 - original version with italian subtitles (85 min)
Only a few months elapsed between the election of Alexander Dubèek and that of President of the Republic Ludvík Svoboda.  Vachek filmed this transition with an extraordinary display of sensitivity toward the funnier side of power broking.  A director who was distant from the Czech and Slovak new wave, he never failed to build documentaries akin to "happenings" -- minor masterpieces in a world of their own, intent on illustrating an era in an amusing yet revealing and telling manner.
20 January, 9.00 p.m.
The Flat (Byt)
by Jan Švankmajer. 1968 (13 min)
A man is thrown into an apartment, and the entrance is now inaccessible.  Inside this space, however, nothing seems to work according to one's normal logical expectations, and the way the flat is designed makes it feel more like a labyrinth.  But is there a way out?
La-prigione FOLLOWED BY
The Prison (Pašák)
by Hynek Boèan. 1969-1990 - original version with italian subtitles (91 min)
The films recounts the effort of a teacher in a reform school not simply to ape his colleagues' cynicism but to cause his own, more humane methods to prevail over the boys' brutish bullying.  The movie was finished not in 1969 but almost 20 years later, finally hitting the movie theater circuit after the communist régimes had collapsed.

Una-settimana-tranquilla-in-casa 21 January, 9.00 p.m.
A Quiet Week in the House (Tichý týden v domĕ)
by Jan Švankmajer. 1969 (20 min)
A man enters a luxurious home after displaying a wary initial approach.  Every day he makes a hole in one of a series of doors in the hallway.  In each room the furniture and objects seem to have taken on a life of their own, engaging in their own mysterious activities.  What are they plotting behind the human beings' backs?
Una-domenica-uccisa FOLLOWED BY
Squandered Sunday (Zabitá Nedĕle)
by Drahomíra Vihanová. 1969-1990 - original version with italian subtitles (78 min)
In this movie Vihanová paints a picture of a pointless existence, monitoring the painfully dull inanity of an anti-hero:  a career soldier who attempts to escape the emptiness of his daily life by seeking refuge in his memories.  The film was not finished until the late 1980's. 
Jan-69 22 January, 9.00 p.m.
Jan 69 (repeat)
by Stanislav Milota.  1969 (8 min)
This documentary, filmed in semi-clandestine circumstances in order to avoid being seized by the political police, has only just resurfaced from the archives of the Czech national cinéthèque.  It focuses on the impact that young student Jan Palach's sacrifice of his own life had at the grassroots level.

Funeral Ceremonies (Smuteèní slavnost)
by Zdenĕk Sirový. 1969-1990. - original version with italian subtitles (67 min)
The widow of a victim of the collectivization process decides to give him the justice he never knew by holding a funeral ceremony.  But the past, psychologically repressed, resurfaces and calls into question both the organization of society and the existence of an individual.  The movie never hit the distribution circuit, only receiving a private screening the day before the brutal police repression of demonstrations on 17 November 1969.

Confusione 23 January, 9.00 p.m.
Confusion (Zmatek)
by Evald Schorm. 1968-1990 (35 min)
Before, during and after Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia, as filmed by young camera hands in total freedom.  The editing was later supervised by director Evald Schorm, whose moral authority was acknowledged by the new generation of film-makers.  This film is a diligent and eloquent oratorio for his country.
Il-settimo-giorno, l‘ottava-notte FOLLOWED BY
The Seventh Day, the Eighth Night (Den sedmý, osmá noc)
by Evald Schorm. 1969-1990  - original version with italian subtitles (87 min)
The film is an allegory about the dynamics of a social group, falling halfway between a biblical parable and an opera libretto.  What can happen to a close-knit community if fear and uncertainty gain a foothold in its midst?  The movie was confiscated by the political police, who saw it as a metaphor for the military aggression.

Le-allodole-sul-filo 24 January, 9.00 p.m.
Skylarks on a String (Skøivánci na niti)
by Jiøí Menzel. 1969-1990  - original version with italian subtitles (105 min)
This smiling yet disenchanted collective film, set in a labor camp in the years following the 1948 coup and the establishment of the totalitarian régime, tells of the tragic years of Stanlinism.  Confiscated immediately after it was finished, it only hit the movie theater circuit after the Velvet Revolution, going on to win a posthumous Golden Bear prize at the Berlin Film Festival.