Vojtěch Jasný’s film The Cassandra Cat returns to Cannes in digitally restored version

'The Cassandra Cat'

 The Cassandra Cat or Až přijde kocour, a 1963 film by Vojtěch Jasný, will return to Cannes nearly 60 years after its premiere. The legendary modern fairy tale, which won the Special Jury Prize at the French festival, will be screened in a new version, restored by the Czech National Film Archive.

The Cassandra Cat, co-written by the famous screenwriter Jiří Brdečka, takes place in a small Czech town suddenly visited by an old magician, portrayed by Jan Werich.

He is accompanied by a beautiful assistant and a sunglasses wearing cat endowed with a special power to reveal people’s true natures.

When the cat removes its sunglasses, liars become tinged with purple, thieves turn grey, the unfaithful yellow and the love-struck red.

In fear that their true nature will be revealed, several local dignitaries, including the school headmaster, kidnap the magic tomcat.

Vojtěch Jasný | Photo: Ian Willoughby,  Radio Prague International

Audiences at the Cannes International Film festival will now have a chance to see the legendary film in the version, in which it was first released in cinemas in 1963.

The digital restoration was carried out by the Czech National Archive in cooperation with L'Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in Bologna and in partnership with the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Tereza Frodlová, curator and restorer from the Czech National Film Archive, explained what the process entailed:

“Technical restoration is always preceded by historical research of archival materials and periodicals to find out as much as possible about the conditions in which the film was made and screened.

“We also analyse film materials to see what condition they are in and if there are more versions available. In case of The Cassandra Cat, we had three different formats available.

“We decided to use the widescreen version in the 1:2.55 format accompanied with multi-channel sound. We found the original 1963 copies with the original magnetic soundtrack in archives in Hungary and Poland.”

'The Cassandra Cat' | Photo: National Film Archive

Along with the stunning exteriors, shot in the historic town of Telč, The Cassandra Cat is also unique thanks to its multi-coloured experimental celluloid techniques.

Tereza Frodlová again:

“That was one of the challenges in the restoration process, because film materials, even if they are stored in good conditions, are prone to aging, and various chemical processes cause changes in their colour.

“So we had to find a balance in removing the signs of aging while maintaining the original colouring, including the warm tone which was present in the original copies.”

Vojtěch Jasný, who died in 2019, was one of the leading figures of the Czechoslovak New Wave. He left the country in 1970, two years after the Soviet-led invasion, and spent the rest of his life in the United States, where he continued to work as a filmmaker.

The digital version of The Cassandra Cat will be released in cinemas all around the Czech Republic at the end of July.