Even if you’re new to world cinema histories you’ll probably know that every country seems to have had its New Wave… We caught up with Close-Up Film Centre programmer Oliver Dickens to talk about their continuing season of Czechoslovak cinema.
By RADIANT CIRCUS
Even if you’re new to world cinema histories you’ll probably know that every country seems to have had its New Wave, periods of productivity that are pretty much always associated with a sense of artistic liberation. Oliver explains the Czechoslovak New Wave as “films made essentially within the 1960s, before Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Soviet Union. It’s defined by generally politically-driven films with a kind of formal experimentation going on. They’re often quite playful, but as we’ll see from this programme, they also deal with the lives of Jews during and after the war and other important postwar themes.”
The programme has been designed around the UK premiere of Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s epic documentary CZECHMATE: IN SEARCH OF JIRÍ MENZEL (2018). Exploring the director’s life and career, the documentary features many key filmmakers from the Czechoslovak New Wave, some of whom have died since they were interviewed. Running at a “hefty” 429mins, the documentary offers an essential overview of Czech and Slovak cinema, the political turmoil that resulted in the country splitting in 1993 and the “ever resilient Czech cultural identity”.
We often wonder how cinema seasons come together, the chance to premiere the documentary was the stimulus here: “We only screen films that can be contextualized in some way” says Oliver. “The idea came up to then program a few Czech films around the documentary, which inevitably grew into quite a lengthy programme. It was initially just five titles and that snowballed…”.
The final season reflects other considerations, both prosaic and artistic: “part of it is practicality. There were certain films that I wanted to screen but we’ve ended up not being able to include them because we were trying to keep it within a very small budget… but we are also screening some rarities, like JOSEF KILIÁN (d. Pavel Jurácek & Jan Schmidt, 1965), BIRDS, ORPHANS AND FOOLS (d. Juraj Jakubisko, 1969), and THE BOXER AND DEATH (d. Peter Solan, 1962)”
We asked Oliver if there were any particular films he would recommend the time-pressed to see in the season. His recommendation is a personal one: DIAMONDS OF THE NIGHT (d. Jan Němec, 1964 – main featured image) I think is incredible. I’ve seen it before but never in a cinema. This is a new restoration that I would recommend to everyone… Essentially, it’s the story of two Jewish boys who escape from a train to a concentration camp and are pursued across the film by these elderly men from the militia. It’s basically wordless and it’s just about their journey through this landscape. It’s very sparse narratively, but the sound and imagery are incredible.”
Also projecting at Close-Up this month is a season of films touched by the late Scott Walker. The season includes both films he scored and a series of titles originally selected by Scott for his edition of Meltdown Festival in 2000.
Reflecting Scott Walker’s taste in films has given the venue a chance to include a “broad selection of repertory masterpieces” that might not fit into their regular programme. Rarer highlights include Leos Carax’s POLA X (1999) which screens at Close-Up from 35mm – and was the first film Scott Walker scored – and HUNGER (d. Henning Carslen, 1966), “probably the least well known film in the programme” which Oliver admits is “one that I wanted to screen because I’d like to see it myself.” And you can’t blame him for that.
CLOSE-UP ON THE CZECHOSLOVAK NEW WAVE screens at Close-Up Film Centre (until 16 MAY).
CLOSE-UP ON SCOTT WALKER screens at Close-Up Film Centre (until 31 MAY).
CLOSE-UP FILM CENTRE
Close-Up Film Centre in Shoreditch is the embodiment of London’s indie film spirit, providing a heavenly member’s library of borrowable books and DVDs as well as a well-equipped 40 seat screen and café/bar. The film programme majors heavily on director retrospectives but their one-off events by moving image artists are often our reason for going back time and time again.
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