Czech Modernism, 1926–1949

5/27/07 to 6/24/07

The cinema that emerged in Czechoslovakia between the World Wars is like no other, a dizzying cut-and-paste compilation of native artistry and outside influences-German Expressionism, Soviet montage, Hollywood glamour-with a delightful sense of experimentation and a touch of the surreal. The films are breathtaking even today-both of their time and so far ahead of their time, cinema still hasn't caught up to their energy and invention.

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  • Tonka of the Gallows, June 15

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Past Films

  • Crisis

    • Sunday, June 24 3:00pm

    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.

  • Distant Journey

    • Sunday, June 24 4:30pm

    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

  • The River

    • Thursday, June 21 7:00 pm

    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 Strike

    • Thursday, June 21 8:45pm

    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.

  • Virginity

    • Friday, June 15 7:00pm

    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.

  • Tonka of the Gallows

    • Friday, June 15 8:45pm

    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.

  • From Saturday to Sunday (Free Screening!)

    • Thursday, June 7 5:30pm

    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.

  • Such Is Life

    • Thursday, June 7 7:00pm

    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

  • On the Sunny Side

    • Thursday, May 31 7:00 pm

    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.

  • Heave Ho!

    • Thursday, May 31 8:40pm

    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.

  • The Kreutzer Sonata

    • Sunday, May 27 3:00pm

    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).

  • Faithless Marijka

    • Sunday, May 27 5:00pm

    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.