November 20, 2014

Getty Explores the Czech New Wave with Czech film and the Prague Spring

Saturday and Sunday, December 6 and 7, 2014
At the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center
Beth Laski
Getty Communications
(818) 986-1105

Still from Vera Chytilová’s Daisies, 1966.
LOS ANGELES—In conjunction with the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful, the Getty presents a film series highlighting the radically fruitful, but short-lived, Czech New Wave. The films chosen encompass the varied revolutionary style of cinema in Czechoslovakia around the time of the Prague Spring of 1968. Born of dissent against the Communist regime, the films often sublimate their critiques in absurdity, humor, pathos, and occasional Surrealism.

In the aftermath of the Soviet invasion in August 1968, all of the films in this series were banned by the Communist regime in Prague, and most were not seen again until the Velvet Revolution of 1989. This series surveys the power of cinematic commentary with films that, despite heightened censorship, influenced filmmakers around the world.

A highlight of the series is the screening of Daisies (1966) on Sunday, December 7, at 4:00 p.m. This dazzling experimental film, directed by Vera Chytilová (1929-2014) is a masterpiece of feminist and art-house filmmaking. The screening will be introduced by Los Angeles artist Jennifer West. “Once I saw Daisies, it immediately rose to the top of the most important films to me as an artist and as a person,” West wrote in a remembrance of Chytilová earlier this year for ArtForum.

Also highlighted is the work of Jan Nem?c, with his Kafkaesque feature A Report on the Party and Its Guests, screened along with Oratorio for Prague. This documentary short began as an innocuous profile of the growing bohemian culture of the Prague Spring, but ended up capturing the startling images of Soviet tanks at the Warsaw Pact Invasion. Reportedly the only footage taken of the invasion, Nem?c’s film stand beside Josef Koudelka’s images as the key documentation of those confrontational moments. Both artist were forced to smuggle their work out of Czechoslovakia and were forced to into exile, but in disseminating their riveting images, brought a vision of truth to the world beyond the Iron Curtain.

This film series is intended for teen and adult audiences.

Location: Harold M. Williams Auditorium, Getty Center
Admission: Free; reservations required. Tickets now available!
Call (310) 440-7300 or visit

The Ear
Saturday, December 6, 2014 | 4:00 p.m.
Directed by Karel Kachy?a
(1970, 94 minutes, English subtitles)

Karel Kachy?a was one of the few directors who stayed in Czechoslovakia after the implementation of the Warsaw Pact. Following The Ear, which was banned immediately, he was banned from making anything controversial. The Ear was finally released in 1989, and is a fascinating criticism of the contemporary totalitarian regime. This is a directly confrontational film, without parody, and one of the most compelling political films of all time.

Oratorio for Prague
Saturday, December 6, 2014 | 7:00 p.m.

Directed by Jan Nem?c
(1968, 26 minutes, English subtitles)

Along with Koudelka’s photographs, this short film by Nem?c is one of the few documents of the Soviet Invasion in August 1968. Originally planning to film the joyous freedom engendered by Czech reformer Alexander Dub?ek, Nem?c was in Prague as the first Soviet tanks rolled in to "help" a fellow socialist state.

A Report on the Party and Its Guests
Saturday, December 6, 2014 | 7:30 p.m.

Directed by Jan Nem?c
(1966, 70 minutes, English subtitles)

Banned immediately in 1966, released briefly in 1968, then banned again for 20 years, Nem?c’s parody of oppression and conformity seems to mix the photojournalism of Cartier-Bresson (one of Koudelka’s influences) with the surrealism of Buñuel, into his own contemporary Czech experience.

The Joke
Sunday, December 7, 2014 | 2:00 p.m.

Directed by Jaromil Jireš
(1969, 81 minutes, English subtitles)

Considered one of the last great films of the Czech New Wave and made after the Soviet invasion, the plot concerns a young man who is expelled from the Communist Party because of a joke and his subsequent need, 20 years later, for revenge against the good friend who betrayed him.

Sunday, December 7, 2014 | 4:00 p.m.

Directed by Vera Chytilová
(1966, 76 minutes, English subtitles, 35mm)

Presented with an introduction by Los Angeles artist Jennifer West One of the New Wave’s most anarchic films, Daisies is also considered a touchstone of feminist film; this trait made the Communist government sense danger and it was immediately banned. By far the most dazzlingly experimental film of this period, the surrealism achieved by Daisies’ collage and optical effects is matched in absurdity only by the mischievous and satirical behavior of its two irreverent heroines.

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