Jan Nemec: Master of the Czech New Wave

 

Above artwork courtesy of Second Run DVD (Region 0 DVD of “Diamonds of the Night” now available!)

 

One of the most imaginative and fertile film movements in the history of the medium, the Czechoslovak New Wave period covering the 1960s in that particular Eastern European country contains as many groundbreaking, subtle, deeply emotional and historically reverberant films as does the French New Wave (also of the ‘60s), and the New Hollywood of the ‘70s. With Iron Curtain Communism breathing heavy down their necks, Czech filmmakers of the era used the motion picture camera both as a invigorating aesthetic bellwether, and as an ideological weapon thinly but effectively disguised under the hood of their collective output.

 

Many of the Czechoslovak New Wave’s greatest practitioners are known to enthusiastic fans of cinema: Milos Forman (who would later emigrate to America and direct Amadeus, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and The People vs. Larry Flynt), Vera Chytilova (Daisies), Ivan Passer (Intimate Lighting, later Cutter’s Way in Hollywood.) One major name from this movement unusually remains absent from American filmgoers’ lips — but we hope to now reverse that with this first-ever U.S. retrospective of Jan Nemec, one of the fiercest opponents of his home country to commit their anti-establishment feelings on film.

 

Due to the Czechoslovak state often placing government-funded works into international festivals/distribution years after they were first completed, American audiences rarely had the opportunity to swim in the cinematic waters of Jan Nemec — who first exploded onto the scene in 1964 with Diamonds of the Night: the elegiac, near-wordless tone poem which was only the first in an amazing series of equally powerful, poetic works.

 

Join us for a fulfilling, eye-opening series of Nemec’s films from the 1960s — including archival 35mm prints!

 

BUY TICKETS ($12/free for members. Showtimes subject to change):
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DIAMONDS OF THE NIGHT (plus A LOAF OF BREAD): Tuesday, 2/11, 7:30pm, Wednesday, 2/12, 7:30pm
A REPORT ON THE PARTY AND THE GUESTS: Wednesday, 2/19, 7:45pm
MARTYRS OF LOVE (plus ORATORIO FOR PRAGUE and MOTHER AND SON: Wednesday, 1/26, 7:30pm
PEARLS OF THE DEEP: Wednesday, 3/5, 7:30pm

 

Screenings presented as part of the touring retrospective “Independent of Reality: The Films of Jan Nemec” in North America, premiered by BAMcinématek in New York City. Retrospective produced by Comeback Company, curated by Irena Kovarova, and organized in partnership with the National Film Archive (Prague), Aerofilms and Jan Nemec – Films. Film stills courtesy of National Film Archive (Prague.)

 

Watch Cinefamily’s original trailer for “Jan Nemec: Master of the Czech New Wave”!

 

Pearls of the Deep

pearlsofthedeep_website
3/5/2014 - 7:30PM

A diverse omnibus of prole life under communism, featuring shorts by Věra Chytilová (Daisies), Jiri Menzel (Capricious Summer), Jaromil Jireš (Valerie and Her Week Of Wonders) — and Jan Němec, whose offering, “The Imposters”, provides an unassumingly insightful consideration of the lies we tell not only strangers, friends, and acquaintances, but more importantly, ourselves. Bringing together a startling cross-section of the Czech New Wave’s most vibrant and dangerous talents, this 1966 collection is a variety of adaptations from the landmark debut collection by provocative author Bohumil Hrabal (considered by Czechs to be one of their greatest authors of the 20th century.) “The Imposters” observes two aging, hospitalized men as they recall past experiences and artistic triumphs. When tragedy strikes and the realities of their youths are soon revealed, melancholy overtakes the nostalgia, with the casual narrative gathering substantial implications. The film, which begins with the dialogue line “If I wasn’t mad about something I couldn’t write a single sentence”, is indicative of Němec’s coming career triumphs, and is thus the heart of Pearls of the Deep — grounding the surrounding films’ more outwardly surreal and allegorical flights of fancy.
Dirs. Jan Nemec, Vera Chytilová, Jaromil Jires, Jirí Menzel & Evald Schorm, 1966, 35mm, 105 min.

Watch an excerpt from “Pearls From The Deep”!
YouTube Preview Image

Oratorio for Prague + Martyrs of Love

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2/26/2014 - 7:30PM

A triple testament to the youthful, rebellious filmic spirit that swept Europe in the late ‘60s, through the lens of the Czechoslovak New Wave’s poetic and playful auteurs. Also screening at the top of the program is Jan Nemec’s 1967 short “Mother and Son”!

ORATORIO FOR PRAGUE – approx. 7:45pm
“Using funds from abroad, Nemec documented the exciting times of the so-called Prague Spring and the road to ‘socialism with a human face.’ With film stock and camera at his disposal, he was ready to document the invasion by Soviet tanks, which crushed the democratization process. The film juxtaposes the hopes of the freewheeling youth during the Spring with the disbelief and despair that followed in the summer a few months later.” — BAMcinématek
Dir. Jan Nemec, 1968, DigiBeta, 26 min.

MARTYRS OF LOVE – approx. 8:15pm
“[A] lyrical testimonial to movies—to Sennett, Chaplin, Keaton, Griffith, Renoir, Truffaut, Antonioni, and to just about everybody else who has ever made a movie of any importance.” — Vincent Canby, New York Times. One of Nemec’s most uninhibitedly joyous works — and the film that cemented his reputation as the kind of unrestrained nonconformist the Communist establishment considered the most dangerous to their ideology. Nearly without dialogue, this three-part, highly musical excursion into the dream-like unreality of love is an bottomless font of visual surprises — and even features a cameo by the two female leads of Věra Chytilová’s Daisies as their characters from that similarly fancy-free film!
Dir. Jan Nemec, 1967, 35mm, 71 min.

A Report on the Party and the Guests

Surreal, playful allegory!
reportontheparty_website
2/19/2014 - 7:45PM

Nowhere near as clinical as its title suggests, A Report on the Party and the Guests is instead a surreal, playfully subversive allegory by one of the greatest filmic rebels from the Czech New Wave’s insurrectionist posse. Depicting the curious submission of a group of picnicking citizens to a clan of wandering authority figures, Jan Němec’s most notorious work laces its parable of communist command with biting humor and a fantastical sense of cinematic foreplay, shifting moment by moment from absurdist comedy to stark realism, and back again. “All you care about is having fun,” one character ironically declares as a pastoral luncheon turns into a grotesque celebration of totalitarianism run amok — and yet this dark comedy never fully submits to pessimism, nor abandons its critique of the society from which it emanated. Filmed starkly in black­-and-­white with an invigoratingly free approach to editing and narrative, A Report on the Party and the Guests is all at once audacious and approachable, consummate and uproarious.
Dir. Jan Němec, 1966, 35mm, 71 min.

Watch an excerpt from “A Report on the Party and the Guests”!
YouTube Preview Image

Diamonds of the Night (2/12)

diamondsofthenight_website
2/12/2014 - 7:30PM

Feature preceded by the Jan Nemec short film “A Loaf of Bread”.

“It’s a torrent of life—and cinema—in the face of death. Best known as one of the Czech New Wave’s earliest salvos, Jan Nemec’s debut stunner feels even more potent now that it’s been freed of the expectations and delineations of its original national movement. On a hillside in WWII-era Czechoslovakia, two young men duck gunfire and dash desperately for cover in the wintry woods. Starving and dangerously dehydrated, they take bread from a farmer’s wife and provoke another pursuit, this time by a community of rifle-toting geriatrics who treat the duo’s mortal scramble as sport. All the while, the younger of the two (Antonin Kumbera) flashes back to his life in Prague, to the train bound for a concentration camp, and to the jailbreak that he seems fated to endlessly repeat. We’re utterly and overwhelmingly immersed in a Jewish fugitive’s singular experience, from hunger pains to hallucinatory reveries. Nemec’s technique is as emotionally intuitive as it is masterful, purposefully scrambling past and present, handheld realism (a breathless opening tracking shot) and Buñuellian surrealism (fever-dreamed ants colonizing Kumbera’s angelic face).” — Eric Hynes, Time Out
Dir. Jan Nemec, 1964, 35mm, 68 min.

Watch an excerpt from “Diamonds of the Night”!
YouTube Preview Image

Diamonds of the Night (2/11)

diamondsofthenight_website
2/11/2014 - 7:30PM

Feature preceded by the Jan Nemec short film “A Loaf of Bread”.

“It’s a torrent of life—and cinema—in the face of death. Best known as one of the Czech New Wave’s earliest salvos, Jan Nemec’s debut stunner feels even more potent now that it’s been freed of the expectations and delineations of its original national movement. On a hillside in WWII-era Czechoslovakia, two young men duck gunfire and dash desperately for cover in the wintry woods. Starving and dangerously dehydrated, they take bread from a farmer’s wife and provoke another pursuit, this time by a community of rifle-toting geriatrics who treat the duo’s mortal scramble as sport. All the while, the younger of the two (Antonin Kumbera) flashes back to his life in Prague, to the train bound for a concentration camp, and to the jailbreak that he seems fated to endlessly repeat. We’re utterly and overwhelmingly immersed in a Jewish fugitive’s singular experience, from hunger pains to hallucinatory reveries. Nemec’s technique is as emotionally intuitive as it is masterful, purposefully scrambling past and present, handheld realism (a breathless opening tracking shot) and Buñuellian surrealism (fever-dreamed ants colonizing Kumbera’s angelic face).” — Eric Hynes, Time Out
Dir. Jan Nemec, 1964, 35mm, 68 min.

Watch an excerpt from “Diamonds of the Night”!
YouTube Preview Image

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