A Season of Classic Films: Discover Czech silent films

A Season of Classic Films at NFA

From April to June, the Czech National Film Archive will offer free online access to seven silent films with contemporary music, in the frame of ‘A Season of Classic Films’. The selection includes some of the first movies shot in the Czech lands, Karel Lamač’s films and performances by Vlasta Burian and Anna Ondráková. Some screenings will be followed by live discussion on topics related to silent film and its presentation.

The first screening of the Czech retrospective is Karel Lamač’s Bílý ráj (White Paradise, 1924, 73’) with music by multi-instrumentalist Tomáš Vtípil on Thursday 8 April, starting at 17:00 CET. In this film, Nina falls for the good heart and piercing eyes of an escaped prisoner and decides to help him visit his dying mother for the last time. An ingeniously written script and the involvement of ‘The Strong Four’ – one of the most distinctive creative teams to come out of Czechoslovak cinema: director and actor Karel Lamač, cameraman Otto Heller, actress Anny Ondra and screenwriter Václav Wasserman – contributed to the international success of the film and established Lamač and Ondra as major forces of early cinema. Other prominent figures of early Czech cinema participated in the production, such as Martin Frič and Gustav Machatý. The new film digitisation originates from a 35mm coloured restored print, for which a unique tinted and toned nitrate film provided source material.

The premiere screening of White Paradise is followed by the discussion ‘Classics Today’, which provides a framework for the entire Czech retrospective. What the term ‘classic’ means in architecture, music, literature and why using this term, are some of the questions discussed by guests from various cultural fields and moderated by the General Director of the Czech National Film Archive, Mihal Bregant.

Films with new musical accompaniments will be added to the online series on a bi-weekly basis. The full programme and access link are provided below.

According to Curator Jonáš Kucharský, “Newly reconstructed film prints offer unique insight into the history of Czech cinema. The programme traces the development of early Czech film in all of its variety – from period blockbusters to marginal, quasi-documentary films. In response to the question of what constitutes a ‘film classic’ in the context of early Czech cinema, our series provides an ambiguous answer. It will be up to the audience to decide what this term means to them on the basis of the screenings and discussions”.

A Season of Classic Films is an initiative coordinated by the Association of European Cinematheques (ACE) and supported by the EU Creative Europe programme. Twenty-two institutions from all over Europe, including the Národní filmový archiv, Prague, are taking part in this year’s free admission screening events, which aim to acquaint the public, younger viewers in particular, with cinema history and the preservation of film heritage.

Programme

8 April
17:00 Bílý ráj / White Paradise (Karel Lamač, 1924). Music: Tomáš Vtípil. The film will remain available, after its premiere on 8 April until the end of June. WATCH: White Paradise + music performance
19:30 Discussion: Classics Today. Moderated by Michal Bregant (Národní filmový archiv, Prague). Panelists: Paulina Reizi (Eye Filmmuseum, ACE), Gérald Duchaussoy (Festival de Cannes, Lumière Festival), Irena Lehkoživová (ViPer Gallery), Barbora Kundračíková (Museum of Modern Art, Olomouc), Tomáš Glanc (Zurich University), Jiří Tourek (Faculty of Humanities of the Charles University).

6 May
17:00 Buď připraven! / Be prepared! (Svatopluk Innemann, 1923). Music: Wabi Experience.  WATCH: Be Prepared! + music performance
Be Prepared! portrays the early Czech boy scout movement taking the audience to astonishing locations, such as Orlík castle and St John’s Rapids, the latter of which no longer exists. The new tinted and toned copy was reconstructed by the Národní filmový archiv, Prague.

20 May
17:00 Hříchy lásky / The Sins of Love (Karel Lamač, 1929). Music: Ožvold & Ožvold & Kratochvíl. WATCH: The Sins of Love + music performance
19:30 Discussion: Music for Film. Panelists: sound artist Sara Pinheiro, composer and producer Tomáš Vtípil, composer and producer Jan Burian and composer and sound artist Martin Ožvold.

3 June
17:00 Films of Jana Kříženecký (1898-1911). Music: Jan Burian. With commentary by Jeanne Pommeau about the film restoration and the historical context of these early films.  WATCH: Films of  Jana Kříženecký
19:30 Discussion: Presenting Early Cinema. Moderated by Matěj Strnad. Panelists: Jeanne Pommeau, Jiří Anger (Národní filmový archiv, Prague), Elif Rongen (Eye Filmmuseum).

10 June
17:00 Milenky starého kriminálníka / The Lovers of an Old Criminal (Svatopluk Innemann, 1927). Music: Vojtěch Procházka. WATCH: The Lovers of an Old Criminal
A slapstick comedy with two men who swap their identities to escape their respective marriages.

17 June
17:00 Cikáni / Gypsies (Karel Anton, 1921). Music: Trio Neuvěřitelno. WATCH: Gypsies + music performance
A film adaptation of the eponymous novel by Karel Hynek Mácha – author of the celebrated epic poem May – about a Venetian gondolier whose beloved is enticed away by a wealthy foreigner.

24 June
17:00 Ukřižovaná / The Crucified (Boris Orlický, 1921). Music: Ondřej Dizzcock (Ondřej Bělíček).
A naturalistic 1921 adaptation of a Jakub Arbes novel that deals with the socio-political climate of the mid19th century Czech lands, antisemitism, war and love.
19:30 Discussion: Acting styles in silent cinema.

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