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From the Archive: Treasures of Eastern European and Soviet Cinema

June 21, 2013 - July 20, 2013

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As a tribute to the late George Gund III, who passed away in January, we showcase a selection of 35mm films that he donated to BAM/PFA over the years. A great enthusiast for Eastern European and Soviet cinema, Gund often traveled to the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in Czechoslovakia and to places like Georgia, where he befriended and supported filmmakers. Spanning the decade of the late sixties to the late seventies, the works in this series are strong and diverse examples of film production from across the region.

From Hungary, we present The Girl, the first feature by Márta Mészáros, a freshly observed story of a young woman’s search for her biological mother; Károly Makk’s Love, with a poignant plot and restrained performances that earned the film the Jury Prize at Cannes; and Pál Zolnay’s distinctive narrative-documentary hybrid, Photography, offering insights into a world that now seems long gone. Works from Czechoslovakia include The Cremator, a stylized allegorical film by Juraj Herz; and Jaromil Jires’s And Give My Love to the Swallows, the story of a female resistance fighter sentenced to death by the Nazis, which has been compared to Bresson’s Trial of Joan of Arc. From the Soviet Union come Otar Iosseliani’s Pastorale, revealing aspects of daily life in a remote Georgian village and offering astute observations of societal tensions; and Nikita Mikhalkov’s Five Evenings, which opens with a dynamic montage of Moscow street scenes and proceeds as a chamber drama anchored by strong performances. As we watch these films we will remember George Gund’s passion for Eastern European cinema, and his great generosity to the Bay Area film community.

Susan Oxtoby, Senior Film Curator

Friday, June 21, 2013
7:00 p.m. The Girl
Márta Mészáros (Hungary, 1968). (Eltávozott nap). A lonely young working-class woman who has grown up in an orphanage seeks her real mother, only to find herself being passed off as a niece, in this Hungarian classic. (80 mins)

Friday, June 21, 2013
8:40 p.m. Love
Károly Makk (Hungary, 1971). (Szelerem). Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes, Makk’s Love is one of the great masterpieces of Hungarian cinema, “a marvelous film, made with a precision of eye and spirit which records real love” (New Yorker). During the Stalinist early fifties, an elderly woman romantically recalls her life and past loves. (86 mins)

Friday, June 28, 2013
9:00 p.m. The Cremator
Juraj Herz (Czechoslovakia, 1968). (Spalovac mrtvol). This eerie political horror-thriller recalls the German Expressionist works of Murnau and Lang as it follows a conscientious Prague cremator whose taste for the job dovetails with his new bosses: the invading Nazi army. One of the greatest, darkest films of the Czech New Wave. (100 mins)

Saturday, June 29, 2013
6:30 p.m. Photography
Pál Zolnay (Hungary, 1974). (Fotográfia). Two photographers travel Hungary’s back roads in this striking work about truth and photographic illusion. “Provokes serious thought about the nature of self-delusion, while never forgetting that people are still the most extraordinarily entertaining subject available to any filmmaker” (Variety). (80 mins)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013
7:00 p.m. Pastorale
Otar Iosseliani (U.S.S.R., 1975). In this exquisite film by Georgian director Otar Iosseliani, a string quartet’s visit to a small village is treated with the gentle satire usually associated with the Czech New Wave. “Iosseliani is (Georgia’s) greatest director” (Tom Luddy). (94 mins)

Saturday, July 13, 2013
6:30 p.m. Five Evenings
Nikita Mikhalkov (U.S.S.R., 1979). (Pyat vecherov). This classic by the great Mikhalkov (Dark Eyes) tells of the bittersweet reunion of former lovers who have been separated since Hitler’s 1941 invasion of Russia. (100 mins)

Friday, July 19, 2013
8:45 p.m. And Give My Love to the Swallows
Jaromil Jires (Czechoslovakia, 1971). (A Pozdravuji Vlastovsky). Jires, famed for The Joke and Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, here adapts the experiences of a female Czech resistance fighter during WWII, who was imprisoned by the Nazis and sentenced to death. “Communicates an effect of spiritual intensity” (Peter Hames). (86 mins)

Saturday, July 20, 2013
6:30 p.m. The Maple and Juliana
Stefan Uher (Czechoslovakia, 1972). (Javor a Juliana). Three wandering musicians fashion instruments out of a maple tree haunted by the spirit of a lovelorn girl, and are cursed as a result, in this fairy tale-cum-social allegory from Slovak director Uher (Sunshine in a Net). (92 mins)