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Czeching Out: The Early Films of Milos Forman

September 4, 2008 - September 13, 2008

Loves of a Blonde, September 6

When the Russian army rolled into Prague in the spring of 1968, Milos Forman was in Paris writing the script for his first American film, Taking Off. He may have missed the crackdown in Czechoslovakia, but he hadn’t missed years of earlier political repression. No wonder, then, that the comically rebellious and often scandalous films he made in his homeland should be riddled with ridicule for an authoritarian system in decline. Seminal films in the Czech New Wave, Loves of a Blonde (1965) and The Firemen’s Ball (1967) astounded audiences with their satiric innovations, combining amateur actors, documentary techniques, and riotous allegories that played out as generational collisions—young rock ’n’ rollers versus their polka parents. Forman’s rarely seen earliest films, Audition (1963) and Black Peter (1964), already displayed his organic sense of people gathered, the ebb and flow of folksy interaction and fondly depicted foibles. His transitional work, Taking Off (1971), retained the sharp eccentricities of European cinema while delving into an America in the midst of hippie upheaval. Seen in this context, Forman’s first truly American film, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), becomes not a story of spirited madness, but a fable of authority crushing the will of those who contest it. Join us as we view Milos Forman stepping out from behind the Iron Curtain.

Steve Seid
Video Curator

Thursday, September 4, 2008
6:30 p.m. Audition
Forman and Ivan Passer use a pair of musical competitions to frame a sly look at the generation gap in early-’60s Czechoslovakia.

Thursday, September 4, 2008
8:15 p.m. Black Peter
Forman’s comedy about a teen working as a store detective captures the painful, blissful banality of adolescence in an authoritarian society.

Saturday, September 6, 2008
6:30 p.m. Loves of a Blonde
In a town where women outnumber men by 16 to 1, what’s a girl to do? Forman’s tender and funny tale is a Czech New Wave classic.

Sunday, September 7, 2008
5:45 p.m. The Firemen’s Ball
Forman’s droll bureaucratic fable is “a poignant, hilarious movie in a rare genre, a tragicomedy of old age.”—Raymond Durgnat

Thursday, September 11, 2008
6:30 p.m. Taking Off
Lynn Carlin and delightfully deadpan Buck Henry are suburbanites baffled by youth culture in Forman’s first American film. “Brings the stark weirdness of ’70s life into sharp relief.”—Village Voice

Saturday, September 13, 2008
8:15 p.m. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Mark Berger in Person. Jack Nicholson is more mad than crazy in Forman’s adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel. “Powerful, smashingly effective.”—New Yorker

The archival prints in this series were originally secured for a retrospective organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, with the kind collaboration of the Czech Center New York; The National Film Archive, Prague; and Irena Kovarova, independent film programmer and tour manager. Additional thanks to David Bergad, The Saul Zaentz Company; and Paul Ginsburg, Universal Studios. Presented in conjunction with the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies at UC Berkeley.