The Czechoslovak New Wave was one of the richest periods of cinema in the 20th Century. A mix of originality, innovation, beauty, abdusdity and political satire resulted in some of the most groundbreaking cinema. For a short period during the 1960’s, Czechoslovakia was the most vital and exciting place to be for new film-making. Pioneering directors such as , František Vláčil, Věra Chytilová,Ivan Passer, Pavel Juráček, Jaroslav Papoušek, Jiří Menzel, Dušan Hanák and Jan Němec set the world alight. Second Run release The Czechoslovak New Wave Collection II today containing three brilliant films from the period.
A Blonde in Love
Miloš Forman’s Oscar-nominated feature is considered to be one of the best from the movement and indeed the decade. In a provincial town a group of young inexperience and idealistic girls work in a shoe factory. When army training takes place nearby, the authorities organise a mixer. Excitement turns to disappointment when they turn out to be middle-aged army reservists, but Andula (Hana Brejchová) catches the eye and falls for a young pianist called Milda (Vladimír Pucholt) . A Blonde in Love is a beautiful film which shares much with the best work from the Nouvelle Vague.
The Party and the Guests
Jan Němec’s biting political satire and treatise on human nature was entered for the aborted 1968 Cannes Film Festival. A group of friends are having a picnic in a park but end up being forced to attend a birthday party for someone they don’t know. To gain favour with the nameless authority figures they betray their friend who leaves early. It’s surprising The Party and the Guests got made but it was subsequently banned “for life”. It’s a scathing allegory of how Communism came to Czechoslovakia; absurdist, surreal and frighteningly believable.
Larks on a String
Banned by the Czechoslovakian government, Larks on a String won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 1990 when finally released. Set on a scarp-metal yard, Jiří Menzel’s magnificent political comedy revolves around a group of men, their crime is being a member of the middle-classes, who have been sent for ‘re-education’. They work, separated by a fence, from a group of females who have tried to defect. Larks on a String is a brilliant absurdest romantic comedy, almost on a par with Menzel and Hrabel’s collaboration on Closely Observed Trains.
The Czechoslovak New Wave Collection II contains three great films which showcase the great film-making of the era. It’s released on DVD by Second Run and is out today.