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Films of Jan Švankmajer at the National Gallery of Art: May 26- June 10

(This article expired 18.05.2013.)

The National Gallery of Art will feature the films of Czech animator Jan Švankmajer on May 26, 27, June 2, 3, and 10. Švankmajer's dreamlike, fantastic fables—more Brothers Grimm than Disney—combine puppet animation with ominous subjects and symbols while probing the machinery of the unconscious mind. For pure outré inventiveness and magic, Švankmajer has no equal in cinema today.

Please see the schedule of films below or visit:
http://www.nga.gov/programs/film/JanSvankmajer.shtm


The Tales of Jan Švankmajer

May 26, 27
June 2, 3, 10
East Building Concourse, Auditorium

Heir to the robust traditions of early 20th-century Central and Eastern European animation artists, Czech avant-garde animator Jan Švankmajer (born 1934) has been a powerful influence on contemporary filmmakers—Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, and Timothy and Stephen Quay among them. A self-proclaimed surrealist (even a registered member of the Czech Surrealist Society), Švankmajer is just as likely to link his work to oral tradition and folkloric fairy tales. His dreamlike, fantastic fables—more Brothers Grimm than Disney—combine puppet animation with ominous subjects and symbols while probing the machinery of the unconscious mind. For pure outré inventiveness and magic, Švankmajer has no equal in cinema today.

This series has been organized in association with curator Irena Kovarova.
Additional support provided by the Czech Center New York.


Švankmajer: Shorts
May 26 at 1:00
East Building Concourse, Auditorium

A program of classic short works completed between the 1960s and the early 1990s includes The Flat (1968, 13 minutes), The Garden (1968, 19 minutes), Jabberwocky (1971, 12 minutes), Dimensions of Dialogue (1983, 11 minutes, Another Kind of Love (1988, 4 minutes), Flora (1989, 30 seconds), Meat Love (1989, 1 minute), and The Food (1992, 17 minutes).


Little Otik
May 27 at 4:30
East Building Concourse, Auditorium

Inspired by the folk tale Otesánek, in which a childless couple adopt a tree stump and treat it as their own baby, the "Little Otik" of the title grows disturbingly large and eventually consumes everything in its path. "I often work from old fairy tales, which are narrated cosmological myths. This myth concerns rebellion against nature and the tragic consequences of that rebellion...With this film and all my work, all and any interpretation is possible. Because the subconscious and the unconscious work throughout the film, at the end I want to be like the viewer, looking at the work and thinking, 'What have I done here?'"—Jan Švankmajer. (Otesánek, 2000, 35 mm, Czech with subtitles, 132 minutes)


Alice
June 2 at 3:30
East Building Concourse, Auditorium

A devotee of Lewis Carroll, Švankmajer empathized with the 19th-century author and even created, early in his career, an adaptation of Carroll's nonsense poem Jabberwocky. Thus Alice's Adventures in Wonderland offered the right combination of quirkiness and spectacle to inspire Švankmajer’s imagination; his ingenious adaptation, in which Alice is portrayed by an actress and an antique doll, is set entirely inside Alice's home. Straying somewhat from the original narrative, Švankmajer's film retains the main characters, cleverly fashioning them out of stuffed toys, bric-a-brac, and bits of furniture in Alice's room. "A wonderland indeed, imbued with a menacing dream logic at once distinctively Švankmajer’s yet true to the spirit of Carroll"—Geoff Andrew. (Něco z Alenky, 1988, 35 mm, 86 minutes)


Faust
June 3 at 4:00
East Building Concourse, Auditorium

In Švankmajer's fanciful retelling of the fable, a contemporary "everyman" exits the Prague subway and is lured to a mysterious marionette theater. There, following a dreamlike series of episodes, this unsuspecting soul submits to playing the role of Doctor Faustus. Švankmajer's film mixes a variety of techniques to conjure the various theatrical forms that Faust has historically taken—puppet play, ballet, opera, and theater—while including passages from Faust texts by Goethe and Marlowe. "A film that galvanizes the mind and astonishes the eye. In a word, magic"—Geoff Andrew. (Lekce Faust, 1994, Czech with subtitles, 97 minutes)


Surviving Life (Theory and Practice)
June 10 at 4:30
East Building Concourse, Auditorium

Playfully reinventing his modus operandi, Švankmajer here uses colorful photographic cutouts of his actors instead of the actors themselves ("to save money") and creates a "psychoanalytical comedy" through a blend of collage animation and live action. Middle-aged protagonist Eugene leads a double life, fancying a red-suited woman to love in his symbol-filled dreams. Consulting a therapist who sits under dueling figures of Freud and Jung only adds to Eugene's complications. "The synthesis of dreams and reality," according to Švankmajer, "constitute a complete human life." (Přežít svůj život, 2010, 35 mm, Czech with subtitles, 109 minutes)