Czechoslovakia, in the gray 1980s. Teenage Anna is a top sprinter, and her trainer thinks she can go all the way to the Olympics. Her mother is also pinning her hopes on Anna’s success, seeing it as an opportunity for her daughter to live in the free world beyond the Iron Curtain. This vision is so strong that she willingly supports the doping program the communist regime is testing on her daughter although her health will clearly suffer.
Unfolding gradually, Fair Play may be a tale of fiction, but it shines a light on historically based demands made by the regime, and when they concerned a loved one, it was difficult to ignore them. In addition to her powerful, unromanticized evocation of the era that avoids becoming an ostentatious stream of period props, the director succeeds in putting forward a universal story of adolescent fragility without resorting to melodrama. Although ostensibly about sports, this film presents a depiction of relationships and their complications.
Tel Aviv Cinematheque: 16th August at 21:15
In Clownwise, life has proved challenging for three individuals who were once part of a famous trio of clowns. Thirty years previously, Oskar, Max and Viktor came together as the celebrated troupe called Busters, yet despite their popularity with audiences, they ended up going their separate ways. Oskar has now returned after three decades in emigration, but mutual accusations still hang in the air. Perhaps the ‘guilty party’ is something beyond a mere failure to surmount the obstacles life plans for us all. Wrongs of the past can’t be concealed behind a red clown nose.
The film resourcefully distinguishes the protagonists’ different temperaments and also reflects their individuality in its depiction of the environments they inhabit. The sorrow of human relationships is betrayed in the personalities of three clowns who are, perhaps, given their last chance to shake off old injustices. This sensitive picture adopts a candid approach to the heroes’ advancing age and to the trivialities in their lives, and shows understanding in exposing their fragility. It also demonstrates that life is more often a horror show than light-hearted slapstick.
Tel Aviv Cinematheque: 18th August at 18:30
Loves of a Blonde
Loves of a Blonde was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1965, drew a lot of attention to the Czech New Wave, and jumpstarted the international filmmaking career of director Milos Forman — Hair, Amadeus, One Flew Over the Cuckoo´s Nest, and Goya´s Ghosts. It is a tender and humorous look at Andula’s journey, from the first pangs of romance to its inevitable disappointments. Taking place out in the Czech countryside, a shoe factory owner petitions the People’s Army to station a division of soldiers in his town, where the women outnumber the men sixteen to one.
The arrival of the troops is greeted with great excitement, but the girls in the town are disappointed to see that the men are older reservists, and not the strapping young men they’d envisioned. Still, when a band plays at the local pub, the girls show up to be ogled by the older men, many of whom are married. A trio of reservists sends a bottle of wine to Andula, Marie, and Jana, and the girls argue over whether or not to acknowledge the gesture. But Andula catches the eye of the comparatively dashing young pianist, Milda… .
Tel Aviv Cinematheque: 19th August at 19:00
The film was selected as the Czechoslovakian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 42nd Academy Awards. Well praised from movie critics, The Cremator is considered to be one of the best movies ever made in Czechoslovakia as well as a prominent cult film. The story is set in 1930s Prague, where the cremator Karel Kopfrkingl lives and works. The story combines features from black comedy and horror.
It is often recognized as a follower of German Expressionist film and also as an example of the Czechoslovak New Wave. The film was banned after its premiere in 1969 and remained in the vault until the collapse of the communist system in Czechoslovakia in 1989. The film is based on a novel by Ladislav Fuks, which was recently translated to Hebrew.
Tel Aviv Cinematheque: 22nd August at 20:30
Czech Republic is commemorating its 25th anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Israel and the first visit of President Václav Havel to Israel in 1990. However, he himself said he would not have achieved what he did without his wife Olga. The documentary portrait about her brings previously unreleased archive footage and photographs to speak freely for themselves, placing an emphasis on capturing the spirit of the period and aspects of Havlová’s life that were out of the political limelight.
Witty recollections from friends and acquaintances are presented intriguingly interwoven with excerpts from files the secret police kept on Havlová. This highly original film offers a portrait of an exceptional individual who would have turned 81 on 11 July this year.
Tel Aviv Cinematheque: 17th August at 19:00