By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This April and May, Rio’s prestigious Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB) is showing an exhaustive retrospective of the Czech new-wave director Vera Chytilová.
Beginning last week, on Wednesday, April 17th, CCBB are exhibiting 26 films, including 20 feature films and 6 short films, as well as hosting talks and other special events, until the festival’s end on Monday, May 6th.
While the films will be screened in the original Czech with Portuguese subtitles, Chytilová is famous for her brilliantly anarchic and visually-driven storytelling, so even non-Portuguese speakers shouldn’t miss out on catching one of Europe’s most idiosyncratic directors on the big screen.
Satirical, mischievous, surreal and female-driven, perhaps the best representation of, and introduction to, Chytilová’s oeuvre is her second feature-length film, 1966’s ‘Sedmikrásky’ (Daisies).
Banned by the communist authorities at the time and simultaneously awarded the Grand Prix prize from the Belgian Film Critics Association, Daisies is a free-wheeling story following two girls, both named ‘Marie,’ who play a series of pranks on an unsuspecting Czech society, including a huge food fight at the end of the film which, according to the BFI, was deemed especially reprehensible by the authorities.
This film is regarded as a milestone in the hugely influential ‘Nová Vlna’ (Czech New Wave) film movement, and it will be shown at CCBB on Thursday, April 25th at 5:15PM.
Chytilová’s next film, 1970’s ‘Ovoce stromů rajských jíme’ (Fruit of Paradise) is another bold step into the experimental unknown, and well-worth a watch.
A pure visual feast, the film is an extended meditation on nature, while also following a loose adaptation of the biblical story of Adam and Eve.
In another episode of international acclaim coupled with domestic censure, the film was entered into the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, and yet also led to Chytilová receiving an eight-year ban on film-making from the Czechoslovak state. ‘Fruit of Paradise’ will be shown on Wednesday, May 1st at 1:30PM.
Despite government censorship and the later arrival of democracy, Chytilová continued to make bold and uncompromising films well into the nineties, with two of her particularly noteworthy later films showing at this festival.
1992’s ‘Dědictví aneb Kurvahošigutntag’ (The Inheritance or Fuckoffguysgoodday) is a blistering attack on the avaricious and materialistic capitalism that arrived in the wake of the Soviet collapse in the nineties.
The film follows a peasant who inherits a fortune, leaves his village and goes to live a rich man’s city-life in the post-communist Czech Republic.
A decidedly acerbic comedy, ‘The Inheritance or Fuckoffguysgoodday’ will be playing on Sunday, April 28th, at 5:30PM; and again on Saturday, May 4th, at 4:30PM.
1988’s ‘Kopytem sem, kopytem tam’ (Tainted Horseplay) is another satirical story about three party-loving young Czechs who discover that one of them has AIDs, making it the first film from the Eastern Bloc to deal with this subject matter.
‘Tainted Horseplay’ is playing on Saturday, April 27th, at 6:30PM.
There will also be a debate about Vera Chytilová’s life and work held on Thursday, April 25th, at 7PM and featuring the curator Rosa Monteiro, as well as special guests Célia Freitas and Samantha Brasil.
Célia Freitas will also be holding a masterclass on Thursday, May 2nd, at 7PM.
What: ‘Vera Chytilová: A Grande Dama do Cinema Tcheco’
When: Wednesday, April 17th to Monday, May 6th; screening and event times vary
Where: Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil Rio de Janeiro, Rua Primeiro de Março, 66 – Centro
Entrance: R$5 – R$10, unless marked ‘sessão gratuita’ (free entry); tickets available one hour before at the box office