Czech-English Book Features Films of the 60s

Any film student or film lover knows something about Czech film of the 1960s. The unforgettable directors of the Czech New Wave, Chytilova, Forman, Nemec, Menzel and many others emerged at that time, creating their very best works. Kate Barrette has more on a comprehensive new book which documents this period of Czech film.

The Czech contribution to world cinema is indisputable. The first silent movies were made here in 1898, and the world famous Barrandov Studios, still used today, opened in the 1930s. But there is little doubt that Czech cinema reached its highest point in the 1960s. Many important Czech films were made at this time, like Milos Forman's "Black Peter", and Vera Chytilova's "Daisies", which would influence film makers around the world.

A new book, with text in both Czech and English, has been put together by the National Film Archive. It is the fourth in a series on Czech feature films and deals with the period between 1961 and 1970.

Vladimir Opela of the National Film Archive:

"Everything that is in the book was evaluated through the films themselves. We watched the films first, and only after this we started work on the book. We tried to identify every person who was in the cast; not only the main figures, but the less important actors in the films. We also tried to determine where the film was made."

The book not only includes details about the cast and film locations, but interesting written material - like actual scripts, synopses, and censors' cards. It also contains rarely seen promotional material - stills, movie posters, and awards.

Opela talks about the use of coloured stills in the book. It was challenging - but important for particular films, like "That Cat" directed by Vojtech Jasny. It's the story of a cat who comes to a village with a pair of magical glasses which instantly allow him to see the colour of people's true characters.

'That Cat'
"For example people who were in love were red, people who were something like informers were yellow and so on. And we tried to include three or four stills of these characters. It was very difficult, tricky work. Immediately when this cat saw somebody, this person changed to his real character. There are three or four stills which show this interesting trick."

Mr. Opela also talked about the role of the politics of the decade in the creation of these important films.

"In this fight with Stalinism and this old structure of the party, a very interesting space for culture was created. Film makers, and also theatre directors and musicians used this possibility. It was important not only for film makers but I think in all areas of Czech life at the time."