Army Film and the Avant Garde: Cinema and Experiment in the Czechoslovak Military

Army Film and the Avant Garde: Cinema and Experiment in the Czechoslovak Military

Army Film and the Avant Garde: Cinema and Experiment in the Czechoslovak Military

Army Film and the Avant Garde: Cinema and Experiment in the Czechoslovak Military

Synopsis

During the 1968 Prague Spring and the Soviet-led invasion and occupation that followed, Czechoslovakia's Army Film studio was responsible for some of the most politically subversive and aesthetically innovative films of the period. Although the studio is remembered primarily as a producer of propaganda and training films, some notable New Wave directors began their careers there, making films that considerably enrich the history of that movement. Alice Lovejoy examines the institutional and governmental roots of postwar Czechoslovak cinema and provides evidence that links the Army Film studio to Czechoslovakia's art cinema. By tracing the studio's unique institutional dimensions and production culture, Lovejoy explores the ways in which the "military avant-garde" engaged in dialogue with a range of global film practices and cultures. (The print version of the book includes a DVD featuring 16 short films produced by the Czechoslovak Ministry of Defense. The additional media files are not available on the eBook.)

Excerpt

On the morning of January 25, 1969, a group of Czechoslovak Army directors and cinematographers set off, cameras in hand, for the center of Prague. There they joined over 500,000 others for the funeral procession of university student Jan Palach, who a week earlier had publicly immolated himself in protest of the results of the August 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia and the occupation that followed it. Crowds ringed the city’s streets, from Charles University’s Carolinum, where Palach lay in state, through the Old Town, to the University’s Philosophical Faculty, where he had studied. in luminous black and white, the filmmakers sketched a portrait of a city that is defined not by these landmarks, but by crowds alone, by stunned, somber faces and wringing hands. Soon afterward, director Ivan Balaďa wove the footage into Forest (Les, 1969), an elegiac city film and a portrait of a metropolis in mourning. Forest, however, is also an elegy of a different sort. the film represents one of the last in a series of nonfiction experiments made in the late 1960s by the Czechoslovak Army Film studio, films whose formal innovation, and social and political critique, rivaled those of the contemporaneous Czechoslovak New Wave. in the year and a half after Forest was made, this remarkable film culture would be dismantled, and the productions of the 1960s archived, largely forgotten, for over thirty years.

This book tells the story of the institution in which this “military avant garde” emerged. in the nearly five decades encompassed here, the military played a unique role within Czechoslovak cinema, helping shape its . . .

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