Tonka of the Gallows, June 15
This powerful 1938 collaboration of the international Left documents the emerging Nazi threat around Czechoslovakia, and stands as an example of frontierless, truly committed political filmmaking.
The founder of Prague's famous Laterna Magika theater ventured into cinema with this revolutionary look at the Holocaust, the first film to tackle the subject. “A stylized danse macabre. . . . Audacious and grotesque, the movie looks back to Caligari and forward to the unsettling puppet animation of Jan Svankmajer.”-J. Hoberman
A Borzage-esque portrait of the fledgling love between a tousled country boy and a sweet girl. This fine example of the European pastoral movement concentrates on the rhythms and moods of the natural world.
The first postwar Czech film to receive honors at a major film festival, this agitprop classic surveys a worker's strike in late-19th-century Czechoslovakia, complete with noirish photography and black-coal realism.
The doomed love of a city girl caught in the vise of poverty is detailed in this fluid, romantic work, one of the most elegant creations of the Czech Modernist era.
A small-town girl becomes a big-city prostitute, but destroys her career by joining a condemned man on his last night, in this wondrously pulpy tribute to female martyrdom. One of silent cinema's great undiscovered melodramas, with an Expressionist flair worthy of The Last Laugh.
Judith Rosenberg on Piano. This landmark precursor to neorealism captures everyday 1920s Prague-coal workers, beer drinkers, slums, the Charles Bridge-through the life of a washerwoman. “Part semi-doc character study, part tenement symphony.”-Village Voice
Gustav Machatý joined forces with Surrealist poet Vítezslav Nezval and the founder of Czech jazz for this sensual and romantic look at an office girl's night out in Jazz Age Prague.
The Czech literary avant-garde came together for this manic, eye-opening subversion of conventional cinema and society itself, loosely based around an experimental reform school. The missing link between the Surrealists and the Soviets.
The manic comedy team of Voskovec and Werich fashioned this anarchic intellectual-political musical involving a good-hearted businessman, a fiery worker, and their plan to escape the Depression. With music, romance, and slapstick, it's a parody of Hollywood happy endings and Soviet workers-utopia films.
Bruce Loeb on Piano. A wealthy man recounts his wife's courtship, betrayals, and finally her murder in this vividly Expressionist silent Tolstoy adaptation by Gustav Machatý (Erotikon).
The writer of Markéta Lazarová goes agitprop in this tale of worker's fury and spurned love in the wild Carpathian Mountains. With lightning-fast Soviet montage and breathless peasant-melodrama flourishes, it prefigures Guy Maddin.