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Program

Dec 7, 2010 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

The Joke

Film screening. The Joke was released in 1968, a turbulent year in Czech history. After a brief period of increased liberalization, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia, reestablishing a harsh regime. The film was banned and vanished from Jires' official filmography.

The Joke (Žert), directed by Jaromil Jires, Czechoslovakia, 1968, 80 min, in Czech with English subtitles

 

Jaromil Jires was born in in 1935 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. He attended FAMU, the state film academy in Prague, with contemporaries Ivan Passer and Milos Forman. After making a few shorts and experimenting with Magic Lantern shows, he directed his debut feature, The Cry, in 1963. The film aligned Jires with others who had caught the wave of liberalization surging through Czecholslovakia that allowed them to make films of daring and innovation. Influenced by both the subjectivity of the French New Wave and the documentary objectivity of cinema verite and Italian Neo-realism, the directors who became known as the Czech New Wave worked within these two influences.

Non-professional actors, improvised dialogue, gritty camera work, and keen observations of everyday life were combined with allegory and surreal content to produce highly personal filmmaking styles. The political climate opened up sufficiently to allow these films to be produced and released although the artists still faced official disapproval and controversy. At the same time they attracted international attention and acclaim.

The Cry was well received internationally but resulted in Jires being denied the opportunity to make a film for almost five years (Jires is said to have racked up the largest number of rejected scripts of any of the New Wave directors).

Finally in 1968, Jaromil Jires directed The Joke (Zert), with Milan Kundera writing an adaptation of his own novel reflecting his disillusionment with communism. The plot focuses on Ludvik, an embittered man who seeks revenge for an incident from his youth. He had sent a postcard to a prospective girlfriend in which he sarcastically responds to something she had said about Trotsky. The card fell into the hands of a student committee who failed to see its satiric tone. Ludvik is expelled from the party and the university, and further punished with prison, and years of forced labor. Fifteen years later, an accidental encounter with the wife of a key student leader provides the opportunity for revenge.

The film alternates nimbly between scenes from the past and present, utilizing frequent cross-cutting, and astutely placed snippets of voice-over narration. The denouement provides surprises at every turn. Eventually, Jires implicates everyone, including the protagonist.

 

The Joke was released in 1968, a turbulent year in Czech history. After a brief period of increased liberalization, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia, reestablishing a harsh regime. The film was banned and vanished from Jires' official filmography.

 

Cast: Josef Somr, Jana Dítětová, Luděk Munzar, Jaroslava Obermaierová, Evald Schorm, Milan Svrčina, Miloš Rejchrt, Věra Křesadlová, Jaromír Hanzlík, Michal Pavlata, Iva Janžurová, Jaroslav Satoranský, etc..

Date

Dec 7, 2010 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Organizer:

Czech Center


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