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A Case for the Young Hangman, March 27

The Case for Pavel Jurácek

Saturday, March 27, 2004
8:50 p.m. A Case for the Young Hangman
Pavel Jurácek (Czechoslovakia, 1969)

(Prípad pro zacínajícího kata). One of the most notorious films of the Czech New Wave, A Case for the Young Hangman was completed in 1969 but screened for only two months until the Soviet invasion caused it to be banned. A willfully deranged adaptation of the third book of Gulliver's Travels, the film is widely considered Jurácek's masterpiece, as committed to avoiding all forms of plot and logic, and to embracing a dreamworld of symbols and signs, as the greatest Surrealist works. A rabbit in a suit, an Academy of Invention where everyone is silent, a "hand-powered" thinking machine, a country that has eliminated November (to "get rid of flu epidemics"): our hero discovers all this and more during his travels from Lilliput to Balnibari to Laputa, journeys shot with noirish intensity by cinematographer Jan Kalis. "The time in which we live baffles any logic, and reason has lost its meaning in it," Jurácek wrote to describe this work, even before the regime pushed reality to even more baffling extremes.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Jurácek. Photographed by Jan Kalis. With Lubomír Kostelka, Pavel Landovsky, Klára Jerneková, Milena Zahrynowská. (105 mins, In Czech with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)