Ecstasy and Irony: Czech Cinema, 1927–1943

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Czech cinema is known today largely for the extraordinary creative flowering, known as the Czechoslovak New Wave, that took place during a relaxation of Soviet domination in the 1960s, producing such major artists as Milos Forman and Ivan Passer. But before (and even during) World War II, Czechoslovakia was home to a highly sophisticated and formally advanced film industry. Programmed in collaboration with the Czech National Film Archive (NFA), this program looks at the wide range of that prewar achievement, including pioneering modernist works like  Přemysl Pražský’s Battalion, Karl Anton’s Tonka of the Gallows, Carl Junghans’s Such Is Life and Vladislav Vančura’s On the Sunny Side; the pointed political comedies of Voskovec and Werich; and the brilliant avant-garde work of Gustav Machatý, including the boldly symbolist Erotikon and his early sound masterpiece From Saturday to Sunday, screening here in the world premiere of a new restoration from the NFA. A selection of rarely screened prints from MoMA’s archive adds a sense of the more popular cinema of the period, with major stars such as Oldřich Nový (in Martin Frič’s Lubitschian masterpiece Kristián) and Hugo Haas (in his film of Karel Čapek’s 1937 anti-Nazi allegory The White Disease).

Organized by Dave Kehr, Curator, Department of Film.

Special thanks to Michal Bregant, Executive Director, Národní filmový archive/National Film Archive of the Czech Republic.

The exhibition is supported by the Annual Film Fund.