The Film Study Center logo - to home page   Film Study Center at Harvard University
FellowshipsFellows About the Film Study Center at Harvard UniversityWork by Previous FellowsEventsNews Support the Film Study Center

Event Details

Karel Vachek in person: two screenings

The Film Study Center is pleased to welcome Karel Vachek, the groundbreaking Czech filmmaker whose works mix cinema verité, improvisation, and staged scenes into a fascinating perspective on the political and intellectual history of the Czech Republic.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009
7:00 PM
l Main Lecture Hall, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Záviš, the Prince of Pornofolk Under the Influence of Griffith’s 'Intolerance' and Tati’s 'Mr. Hulot’s Holiday', or The Foundation and Doom of Czechoslovakia [1918 – 1992] (35mm, 147 min.)
Director in person.
Free and open to the public.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
1:00 PM
l Main Lecture Hall, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Elective Affinities (35mm, 85 min.)
Director in person. Discussion in conjunction with VES and Anthropology documentary filmmaking classes.
Free and open to the public.

Little known outside his own country, the poet provocateur and philosopher Karel Vachek (b. 1940) is one of the Czech cinema’s most original talents. His recent works, so-called "film-novels," are antic, obsessive, kaleidoscopic epics of impressive cinematic skill and enormous scope and ambition. Mixing improvisation, staged sequences, cinéma vérité, public performance and first-person confrontation, the engaging Vachek plunges into arguments about — and humorously exposes the absurdity of — recent Czech social, political and cultural history. His works reveal the proximity between the serious and absurd sides of life with a viewpoint that is belligerent, comic and shrewd.

His earliest works, including Moravian Hellas (1963), his controversial graduation film, and Elective Affinities (1968), one of Eastern Europe’s first cinéma vérité films, established him as part of the Czech New Wave and as an important new documentary artist.

In between these two creative periods was a decades-long exile from filmmaking: after the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia ended the liberalizations of the Prague Spring, Vachek, like many of his fellows, was effectively banned from directing. Vachek worked at manual trades for years, and immigrated to the West for a time in the late 1970s. The Velvet Revolution saw his return to cinema. A teacher at FAMU, the Czech National Film Academy, since 1994, and head of its documentary department since 2002, Vachek has gained a growing reputation as one of the Czech Republic’s greatest living directors. [Text adapted from Pacific Cinématèque, Vancouver BC.]

More information on the filmmaker is available at http://www.karelvachek.cz/

Film screening information

Tuesday, October 27, 2009
7:00 PM
l Main Lecture Hall, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Záviš, the Prince of Pornofolk Under the Influence of Griffith’s 'Intolerance' and Tati’s 'Mr. Hulot’s Holiday', or The Foundation and Doom of Czechoslovakia [1918 – 1992] (35mm, 147 min.)
Director in person. Free and open to the public.

Synopsis:
A dog's funeral becomes part of a chain of absurd events including a tomato ketchup battle, a reconstruction of the battle of Austerlitz and a motorbike show. Its common denominator is the commercial interest of sponsors and big business, the ambivalent winners of privatization and participants of numerous corruption affairs. Vachek debates corruption and environmental disaster, but insists that there is an alternative. Against the mass of "pseudoevents" is the independent techno-party CzechTekk, raided by the police despite the fact that it was entirely law-abiding, whose participants are Vachek believes to be the new "unionists".

"The director presents in isolated takes the provocativeness and oddities of normal life and, in this sense, offers a thoughtful and (for the audience) demanding study of occurrences in front of the camera. From ketchup contests at tomato tournaments right through to a nonsensically over-adorned pet cemetery, from kids in large soap bubbles to a stuffed polar bear – all these pictures form a mosaic which catches the state of the nation through personal space rather than from the public arena. ... Záviš conveys provocative shots of cultural artefacts, personalities as well as historical and national eccentricities which are deposed in the directors own personal space." - Alice Lovejoy

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
1:00 PM
l Main Lecture Hall, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Elective Affinities (35mm, 85 min.)
Director in person. Discussion in conjunction with VES and Anthropology documentary filmmaking classes. Free and open to the public.

Synopsis:
Between 1963 – 1968 Vachek attempted in vain to complete a feature film with Oldřich Nový in the leading role – his great ambition. The helter-skelter events of 1968 (Prague Spring) forged a role for him instead of recording the events surrounding the election of the new President of Czechoslovakia. He and his team entered the political spotlight to capture an unrepeatable event stripped to it's bones. At the point where others switched off their cameras Vachek often began to film. His film breathes authenticity, paradoxically produced in tandem with the crew and underlined by a masterful film composition based on an ironical confrontation of the high and low, dramatic and comic, official and personal. Dubček, Svoboda, Smrkovský and Černík monitored by Vachek's camera become run-of-the-mill, ridiculous, but alive and without any media mask cover. The title "Elective Affinities", which cites Johann Wolfgang Goethe's novel, is a reference to the "political marriage" switches of the participants of those events in a tumultuous era.

The era showed itself even more melodramatic and for a while totally altered the ironic sense of the film. On 21 August 1968 Czechoslovakia was invaded by armies of the Warsaw Pact, which had decided to forcibly crush the reform process. Appearing in cinemas on 8 November 1968, the film is viewed nostalgically by the Czech people, as its participants became national martyrs.

---

Sponsored by the Film Study Center at Harvard, the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, the Literature and Culture Seminar at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and Balagan Film Series.

This presentation is part of a touring series curated by Irena Kovarova and Alice Lovejoy. Produced by Radim Procházka Productions with the support of The Czech Republic State Fund for Support and Development of Cinematography.

Czech Republic State Fund for Support and Development of Cinemetography    Radim Prochazka

 

Zavis, Prince of Porno-Music... directed by Karel Vachek
Záviš, the Prince of Pornofolk under the Influence of Griffith’s 'Intolerance' and Tati’s 'Mr. Hulot’s Holiday', or The Foundation and Doom of Czechoslovakia [1918 – 1992]
Directed by Karel Vachek

"...Vachek’s polyphonic films border on chaos; yet for those who are patient, his carefully selected threads weave into a fascinating and informative perspective on the political and intellectual history of the Czech Republic" — Kathy Geritz, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

“If you haven’t figured it out by now, these movies resist easy descriptive grasp — their restlessness, sprawl and genre-defying sense of play must be experienced, heavy a time investment as that might seem. They are not, however, ‘heavy’ films, but frequently delightful ones." — Dennis Harvey, SF360

"Like Michael Moore, whose desire for provocation he shares, or Ross McElwee, like Vachek at times a picaresque figure, Vachek is a central presence in all of his films, in deep conversation (often argument) with his subjects." — Alice Lovejoy

 

 


 

link Back to Events



Archives

link Events 2008-09
link Events 2007-08


 
 

Join us on Facebook

Join our email newsletter