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Menzel Film Retrospective Launches at Local Czech Restaurant

(This article expired 17.01.2014.)

The Embassy of the Czech Republic launched a year-long retrospective of the work of Oscar-winning Czech director Jiří Menzel, on January 15, at the local Czech restaurant Bistro Bohem to a full house. This year marks Menzel’s 75th birthday.

The series, which runs through December 17, 2013, kicked off with the film Pearls of the Deep (Perličky na dně), featuring the work of the acclaimed director and some of his Czech New Wave colleagues.             

Jiří Menzel is a Czech film and theatre director, actor, and screenwriter. In 1968, he received world recognition when his debut film Closely Watched Trains won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. His film My Sweet Little Village was also nominated for an Academy Award in 1987.   

The director himself also may make a surprise visit to one of the upcoming screenings.      

Event Location:   
Bistro Bohem, 600 Florida Avenue, Washington, DC 20001 | www.bistrobohem.com            

Menzel Retrospective - Upcoming Film Screenings at Bistro Bohem:   
January 15:            Pearls of the Deep | Perličky na dně 
February 19:          Closely Watched Trains | Ostře sledované vlaky          
March 19:            *Those Wonderful Movie Cranks | Báječní muži s klikou            
April 16:                 Larks on a String | Skřivánci na niti  
May 21:                  Capricious Summer | Rozmarné léto 
June 18:                *I Served the King of England | Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále           
July 16:                 *Crime in a Music Hall | Zločin v šantánu      
August 20:            *Who Looks for Gold | Kdo hledá zlaté dno  
September 17:       Cutting It Short | Postřižiny               
October 15:            The Snowdrop Festival | Slavnosti sněženek 
November 19:        Seclusion Near a Forest | Na samotě u lesa    
December 17:        My Sweet Little Village | Vesničko má středisková                       

*These films will be screened in Czech only. | All others will have English subtitles. | Screenings start at 7 pm.              
Additional information about Jiří Menzel:    
Jiří Menzel is an award-winning director, screenwriter, actor, and theater director. He studied filmmaking at the famous Czech National Film Academy, FAMU, in Prague. Like Forman, he was one of the leaders of the Czech New Wave. Most notably, Menzel won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1968 for his first feature-length film Closely Watched Trains (Ostře sledované vlaky, 1966). With the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces in 1968, and the period of so-called ‘normalization’ that followed, he was one of the first directors to be barred from filmmaking. Menzel’s controversial film Larks on a String (Skřivánci na niti, 1969) was banned by the government, but released twenty years later, in 1990, after the collapse of the communist regime. The film won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. In 1987, his film My Sweet Little Village (Vesničko má středisková, 1985) was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film. Other renowned works include Capricious Summer (Rozmarné léto, 1968), Cutting It Short (Postřižiny, 1981) and most recently I Serve the King of England (Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále, 2006). Menzel is a member of the Czech Film and Television Academy, the European Film Academy and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He has received many prestigious awards, among them the French order of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and the Akira Kurosawa Prize for a lifetime’s achievement at the San Francisco Film Festival.   

About the Czech New Wave:            
The Czech New Wave was an artistic movement of the 1960s, hailed as the “golden era” in Czechoslovakia's cinematic history boasting some of the most attractive films produced in Europe. The core of the New Wave was comprised of recent graduates of the Film and Television Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague, who made their debuts in or around 1963, and continued to produce internationally acclaimed work throughout most of the decade. Prominent Czech directors include Miloš Forman, who directed Loves of a Blonde (Lásky jedné plavovlásky, 1965) and The Firemen's Ball (Hoří, má panenko, 1967); Věra Chytilová who is best known for her film Daisies; and Jiří Menzel, whose film Closely Watched Trains (Ostře sledované vlaky, 1966) whose film one the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.       

January 15, 7 pm        
Pearls of the Deep (Perličky na dně)              
1965, 115 minutes, Czech with English subtitles

Five directors teamed up for this film that strings together five short stories from a collection of writings by Bohumil Hrabal. "Mr. Baltazar's Death," made when Jiří Menzel was still a student, follows a family that has a strange obsession for accidents to a motorcycle race. Jan Němec directs "The Imposters" about two old men in a hospital who embellish their younger days, boasting of their professional accomplishments. In Evald Schorm's "The House of Joy," two insurance salesmen pay a visit to an eccentric painter. In "The Restaurant the World," directed by Věra Chvtilová, a young woman's body is found at a wedding celebration. The final feature, "Romance" directed by Jaromír Jireš, involves a young man having an affair with a gypsy woman. The feature marks the emergence of five young directors who were part of the boom of the Czech New Wave during the 1960s.       

February 19, 7 pm              
Closely Watched Trains (Ostře sledované vlaky)

1966, 93 min., Czech with English subtitles     
In this coming of age story, a young man working at a train station in German-occupied Czechoslovakia during WWII, develops a crush on a young conductor. He receives some advice from the experienced train dispatcher, who takes him under his wing to explain the art of lovemaking. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (1968).       

March 19, 7 pm                    
*Those Wonderful Movie Cranks (Báječní muži s klikou)

1979, 90 minutes, Czech only            

The film centers around the beginnings of cinematography. Two men have a passion for filmmaking. One of the men (played by Menzel himself)is behind the camera, capturing the image. Another tries to awaken local production and obtain a cinema for playing the films. Both try to persuade a renowned “diva” to perform on film, which in the early days of filmmaking was seen as an obscene form of art.              
April 16, 7 pm              
Larks on a String (Skřivánci na niti)

1969, 94 minutes, Czech with English subtitles              

A group of “bourgeois,” including a saxophonist and professor, are sent to work at an industrial junkyard in order to be ‘rehabilitated.’ Hard labor is the means of re-educating opponents of the new communist regime. Meanwhile, a group of female prisoners are serving a year sentence for trying to defect. Under the careful eye of a recently married guard, one of them falls in love. The film was initially banned and released in 1990 after the fall of the Communist regime. The film won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival (1990).        

May 21, 7 pm            
Capricious Summer (Rozmarné léto)

1968, 74 minutes, Czech with English subtitles              

Three middle-aged men enjoy a mellow, leisurely summer, when they are interrupted by the arrival of a circus performer and his beautiful assistant. The film won the Grand Prix at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and was listed to compete in the prestigious Cannes Festival, but the festival was cancelled due to the events of May 1968 in France.

June 18, 7 pm                                       
*I Served the King of England (Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále)

2006, 120 minutes, Czech only

The film follows the adventures of opportunist Jan Dítě, a man who is easily impressed by grandeur, lavish lifestyles, sex and money. The beginning of the film starts with him being released from prison in the 1950s. The story is told through a series of flashbacks. His life hits a high note when he is hired as a waiter in Prague’s grandest hotel in the 1930s. He goes from being a porter to becoming a hotel millionaire during the most turbulent period in Europe’s recent history.

July 16, 7 pm                        
*Crime in a Music Hall (Zločin v šantánu)

1968, 98 minutes, Czech only

A flirtatious cabaret singer performs every night alongside her jealous acrobat husband. Chaos ensues after the singer’s pearl necklace, given to her by her admirer, the Minister of Justice, is stolen from her dressing room. The Minister orders a quick investigation in order to avoid the pearls being discovered and revealed as a fake.

August 20, 7 pm   
*Who Looks for Gold (Kdo hledá zlaté dno)

1975, 98 minutes, in Czech only

A young man, after serving a stint in the army, returns to Prague and has difficulty fitting back into society. His girlfriend tries to keep him in the city, but he eventually takes a job as a truck driver. He uses the truck to visit his girlfriend on the weekends. He is unaware that the truck is being used for smuggling on the black market.

September 17, 7 pm
Cutting It Short (Postřižiny)

1981, 93 minutes, Czech with English subtitles

A manager of a large brewery has a beautiful wife that every man in town wants to know better. When his brother arrives for a visit, a situation begins to build that might upset the manager’s marriage. A fortuitous accident occurs that just might save everyone. The film is based on the writing of Bohumil Hrabal and his childhood in Nymburk’s brewery in the 1920s. The film won the Jury Prize at the 1981 Venice Film Festival.

October 15, 7 pm     
The Snowdrop Festival (Slavnosti sněženek)

1984, 83 minutes, Czech with English subtitles

Three hunters from one faction chase after a boar they have discovered in the woods. The wounded animal seeks refuge in a local schoolhouse. Since the schoolhouse is in neutral territory, it becomes the scene for a reckoning between two hunting factions. However, a wild time in a local pub brings about some unexpected consequences.

November 19, 7 pm
Seclusion Near a Forest (Na samotě u lesa)

1976, 95 minutes, Czech with English subtitles

An ordinary Prague family, the Lavička's, yearns to have a house in the countryside. They make a deal with a charismatic old man that they will rent part of his summerhouse where he will live until spring and sell the house to them. As time goes by, the old man makes no effort to leave.

December 17, 7 pm
My Sweet Little Village (Vesničko má středisková)

1985, 98 minutes, Czech with English subtitles

The film tells the story of ordinary people who live a small village and how they quietly triumph over a bureaucrat who comes to the village looking for a summer cottage. Throughout the film, there is a comparison between the life of a small village and the routines and rituals of the community as compared to the city.The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (1987).

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