Mar 11, 2004 12:00 AM - Aug 22, 2004 12:00 AM
Pavel Juráček: New Wave Master Rediscovered
The Czech Center New York presents "Pavel Juráček: New Wave Master Rediscovered," a traveling series of works by the 1960s Czech filmmaker Pavel Juráček. Kicking off the U.S. tour on March 11 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York's Gramercy Theatre will be a screening featuring special guests Marek Juráček, the director's son, and Ludmila Cviková, film curator and programmer of the Rotterdam International Film Festival.
Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA, (510) 642 4889; April 9-15 FACETS, Chicago, IL, (773) 281 9075;
April 16 - May 1
Cinemathéque Ontario, Torotno, Canada, (416) 968-3456,
The Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Boulevard, Cleveland, OH, (216) 421–7350, www.clevelandart.org,
Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA, (617) 267-9300, www.mfa.org/film,
June 8–July 13,
Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, 409 Colorado St., Austin, TX, (512) 476–1320, www.drafthouse.com,
Pacific Cinematheque, 1131 Howe Street, Vancouver, Canada, (604) 688-FILM, www.cinematheque.bc.ca,
August 11 & 22,
American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA,
(323) 466-3456, www.americancinematheque.com
In addition to The Key for Defining Dwarves (2002, dir. Martin Šulík, shot on video; provided by Czech Telexport), a pseudodocumentary on the life of Juráček, the traveling series presents every film that Juráček directed, including his two most important works, Joseph Kilian and Case for a Rookie Hangman, as well as a number of films written by Juráček. The National Film Archive in Prague, which provided all of the prints for this series, has also made available two new prints specially subtitled for the occasion, both from the realm of science fiction: End of Summer at the Hotel Ozone and The Voyage to the End of the Universe (also known as Ikarie XB 1).
The guest appearances at MoMA Film are supported in part by Czech Airlines.
Pavel Juráček (b. August 2, 1935, in Příbram; d. May 20, 1989, in Prague) was one of the most original, and controversial, writers and directors of Czech cinema of the 1960s. Born and raised in the town of Příbram, some 30 miles south of Prague, he had a humble upbringing: his father was absent, his mother worked as a waitress. After graduating from high school in 1953, Juráček entered the Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague, where he studied journalism and Czech. But he left the program after just two years, in 1956, after being suspended “for poor results and failure to fulfill [his] duties as a student.” In 1956–57 Juráček worked for a regional newspaper outside Prague. He left that job to study dramaturgy at the Prague Film Academy (FAMU), though he never completed his studies there, either.
From 1961 to 1970, Juráček held the position of dramaturg at Barrandov Film Studios, the last two years serving as head of a production team. On September 30, 1971, the studio dismissed him, citing his involvement with the rebellious Union of Czechoslovak Film and Television Artists (FITES). The dismissal letter also noted that Juráček had signed the June 1968 manifesto "Two Thousand Words," which called on the Communist Party to institute democratic reforms. As a result, he joined director Ladislav Helge (the chairman of FITES), producer Jaromír Kallista, and cinematographer Stanislav Milota as one of the country's few filmmakers who were completely banned from work by the regime. Juráček's renouncement of his Communist Party membership the year after the Soviet invasion of August 1968 was no doubt also a factor in his dismissal.
To compromise with the regime was out of the question. But Juráček suffered without the opportunity to work. In 1977, after he signed the human rights declaration Charter 77, he was hounded out of the country by the secret police. He emigrated to West Germany, but was utterly unsuccessful there in finding either a job or friends, and in 1983 he returned to Czechoslovakia a defeated man. Only months before the Communists fell in November 1989, Juráček died of lung cancer.
With Juráček's death, Czech film lost an artist with a unique talent for urgent themes, structural sophistication, and creative independence. All of these traits were already apparent in his student films, such as Hlídač dynamitu (Keeper of Dynamite, 1960, dir. Zdeněk Sirový), set during the World War II resistance, and his graduation film Černobílá Sylva (Sylvia in Black and White, 1961, dir. Jan Schmidt), a parody of 1950s propaganda films, in which the title character steps out of the screen into real life, preceding by decades the similar device used by Woody Allen in The Purple Rose of Cairo. Juráček’s medium-length film Postava k podpírání (Joseph Kilian, 1963, cowritten and codirected with Schmidt), a Kafkaesque vision of Stalinist bureaucracy, remains to this day an unparalleled achievement. Juráček, as coauthor of both story and screenplay, was also involved in the groundbreaking science fiction film Ikarie XB 1 (The Voyage to the End of the Universe, 1963, dir. Jindřich Polák) and the antiwar comedy Bláznova kronika (The Jester’s Tale, 1964, dir. Karel Zeman). In addition, he collaborated with Hynek Bočan to write the screenplay for the tragicomic Nikdo se nebude smát (Nobody Will Laugh, 1965, dir. Bočan), based on the short story by Milan Kundera, and alone he wrote and directed the military film Každý mladý muž (Every Young Man, 1965), starring his friends Václav Havel and Pavel Landovský.
Juráček's contribution to Czech cinema also consists of work he did for his cohorts. For Jan Schmidt, he wrote the story and screenplay for Konec srpna v hotelu Ozon (End of August at the Hotel Ozone, 1966). He cowrote the story for Věra Chytilová’s provocative Sedmikrásky (Daisies, 1966), and was part of the group of artists who created the film Člověk a jeho dům (Man and His Home) for Kinoautomat, an interactive exhibition for the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal. Finally, constituting both the pinnacle and the epilogue of Juráček’s career was his feature-length film Případ pro začínajícího kata (Case for a Rookie Hangman, 1969), based on Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. An absurd metaphor of a world with no meaning, directed by Juráček from his own screenplay, Case for a Rookie Hangman was pulled from distribution by the Communists almost as soon as it was released, and remained locked away in a vault for the next 20 years.
—adapted from a text by Jan Lukeš
The Key for Defining Dwarves, or The Last Travel of Lemuel Gulliver (Klíč k určování trpaslíků aneb poslední cesta Lemuela Gullivera)
2002, dir. Martin Šulík, 58 min., subtitles
Starring Marek Juráček (playing his father), Edita Levá, and Julie Ritzingerová
This film essay, a visual collage drawn from the journals of Pavel Juráček, seeks to portray Juráček’s personality in all its idiosyncrasy. In addition to charting his work, it also attempts to reconstruct the director’s complex private life and social milieu of the entire generation. Constructed as a pseudodocumentary, it combines archive shots and period photographs with acted sequences.
Joseph Kilian (Postava k podpírání)
1963, dir. Jan Schmidt and Pavel Juráček, 38 min.
Starring Karel Vašíček, Consuela Morávková, and Ivan Růžička
One day, while walking around Prague’s Old Town, Jan Herold spots a sign that reads cat rentals. Without a moment's hesitation, he enters the shop and rents himself a striped tomcat. The next day, when he goes to return it, though, the store is gone. Horrified at the thought of the late fees he will incur for not returning the cat on time, and hoping to find someone to get him of his predicament, Herold undertakes a desperate and unsuccessful quest in search of a faceless official named Joseph Kilian.
Thursday, March 11, at 6 pm (introduction by Ludmila Cviková and Marek Juráček)
Case for a Rookie Hangman (Případ pro začínajícího kata)
1969, written and directed by Pavel Juráček, 102 min.
Starring Lubomír Kostelka, Pavel Landovský, and Klára Jerneková
A fantastic story based on the third part of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Young Lemuel Gulliver, driving aimlessly, cuts across a wooded slope, rounds a dangerous curve or two, and ends up crashing his car. To his astonishment, not only does he discover that the accident was caused by a hare wearing clothes, but removing a watch from the hare's vest pocket plunges Gulliver into the land of Balnibarbi, a realm of utter absurdity from which there is no escape. Amid the host of inexplicable events that befall Gulliver, the watch continues to be a source of complication, and before he knows what has happened, Gulliver is himself accused of being Oskar the hare.
Thursday, March 11, at 8 pm (introduction by Ludmila Cviková and Marek Juráček)
Every Young Man (Každý mladý muž)
1965, written and directed by Pavel Juráček, 83 min.
Starring Pavel Landovský, Ivan Vyskočil, and Václav Havel
Juráček’s feature debut was shot in two segments. In the first, a corporal accompanies a new soldier for his physical; in the second, soldiers pass the time talking about girls. Finally, at the end of their basic training, a surprise awaits the recruits: a dance with girls bussed in from the neighboring village. But that is not the only surprise in store for the eager young men.
Keeper of Dynamite (Hlídač Dynamitu)
1960, dir. Zdenek Sirový, screenplay Pavel Juráček, 23 min.
Starring Eman Fiala, Ladislav Kazda, and Zdeněk Kutil
Based on a short story by Jan Drda from the collection Němá barikáda (Silent Barricade), the film is set in a small village during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. The village men labor in a nearby quarry, where even the most cowardly-seeming of them work to sabotage the efforts of their occupiers.
The Jester’s Tale (Bláznova kronika)
1964, dir. Karel Zeman, screenplay Karel Zeman and Pavel Juráček, 83 min.
Starring Petr Kostka, Miloslav Holub, and Emília Vášáryová
An ironic, surreal tale that follows the adventures of a cowardly buffoon and his companion, a battle-scarred mercenary, as they struggle to survive the idiocy of generals and the clashing of opposing armies. Set in 1625 Moravia, this gorgeous blend of live action and animated collage is one of Zeman's most rarely seen films.
End of August at the Hotel Ozone (Konec srpna v hotelu Ozon)
1966, dir. Jan Schmidt, screenplay Pavel Juráček, 80 min.
Starring Ondrej Jariabek, Beta Poničanová, and Magda Seidlerová
In a barren post-nuclear-war landscape, an old lady leads eight healthy young women on a search for surviving men with whom to procreate. They encounter an old man living in the Hotel Ozone with nothing but a TV set, a gramophone with one record, and the last fragment of a newspaper from the day before “it” happened.
Voyage to the End of the Universe (Ikarie XB 1)
1963, dir. Jindřich Polák, screenplay Pavel Juráček and Jindřich Polák, 84 min.
Starring Zdeněk Štěpánek, Radovan Lukavský, and Dana Medřická
In the late 22nd century, communism has solved all of Earth's problems, and the development of rocket technology has enabled our descendants to travel to distant planets to seek out contact with new peoples.
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From: Mar 11, 2004 12:00 AM
To: Aug 22, 2004 12:00 AM