Programmed by CEERES
Essay by Professor Malynne Sternstein
This series is a celebration of the life and accomplishments of director Miloš Forman (1932-2018). Best known today for his critically-acclaimed box office smashes One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and Amadeus (1984), Forman's film work began in Prague. His early films, like his debut Audience (1964) and those that won him international acclaim, Loves of a Blonde (1965) and The Firemen's Ball (1967), send up the smug and the tractable petty bureaucrats of provincial Czech society, honoring the rebel, the canny naïf, the quiet iconoclast. He soon fled the repressive Communist regime and decamped to the U.S., where he helmed Hollywood productions distinguished by his singular artistic touch--throughout his 50-year career, the subject matter Forman was drawn to came with a signature bittersweet tone, emphatic narrative cogency, and lush spontaneity. With this series, we also mark the occasion of the 100th anniversary of an independent Czechoslovakia by honoring the career of a filmmaker of historicity, one whose work always resounded with his Czech roots and the historical "curse of the eights" in his homeland: of 1938 (growing up in the so-called Sudetenland, his mother arrested by the Gestapo when he was 8 years old), 1948 (the Communist putsch), 1968 (the crushing of the Prague Spring), and the unshuttering of the Czech nation with the Velvet revolution of 1989 (the year his Valmont was released). Forman's films are gorgeously acerbic revelations of the farce of History--powerful because they do not abstract this theme, instead seizing on localized injustice and stupidity, and the possibilities of overcoming these in life as it is lived in the everyday. A genius of the stolen moment, Forman's films resonate with the dark humor that only a true survivor could nurture. His triumph was to give sound and image to universal human frailty while never failing to simultaneously sing the wisdom of compassion.
(Miloš Forman, 1964) · Forman's debut feature Audition recounts two separate but closely related stories that explore music as a vocation and the sacrifices it necessitates. In the first, two musicians from rival brass bands are more interested in motorcycle racing than playing their instruments, creating headaches for their handlers. In the second (filmed in mockumentary style), two aspiring singers audition for an important role, and run up against the unforgiving tensions between talent, opportunity, and success.
runtime: 82m format: DCP
(Miloš Forman, 1965) · Andula is a dreamy teenage girl who spends her days toiling away at work. A charming young piano player catches her eye and lights the spark of possibility. Against the repressive backdrop of Soviet-era Czechoslovakia, the enchantingly sincere Loves of a Blonde pulls off an extraordinary balancing act between uproarious comedy, acerbic social satire, and tender romance, casting a sympathetic eye on the way that the unfettered optimism of adolescent longing dissolves into disappointment and disillusionment.
runtime: 90m format: 35mm
(Miloš Forman, 1967) · The volunteer fire department of a Czechoslovak town hopes to honor its retired chairman at the annual open ball. These good intentions are soon subverted when everything that could go wrong does, thanks to a combination of malfeasance and incompetence. One of the crown jewels of the Czech New Wave, The Firemen's Ball was banned "permanently and forever" by the Czech authorities for its wickedly scathing satire of the Communist regime.
runtime: 73m format: 35mm
(Miloš Forman, 1971) · Forman's first film made in the United States, Taking Offis a hilarious send-up of American life in the early 70s. The story follows Larry and Lynn Tyne, a buttoned-up all-American couple whose daughter runs away from home. When they enroll in a support group for parents of wayward children, the Tynes participate a little bit in youth culture themselves. No demographic is spared in this riotous but affectionate comedy about generational differences.
runtime: 93m format: 35mm
(Miloš Forman, 1975) · To escape hard labor, recidivist Mac McMurphy (Jack Nicholson in an Oscar-winning performance) pleads insanity for his most recent crime and ends up at a mental institution. Immediately, he clashes with the authoritarian Nurse Ratched. Tension mounts as Mac attempts to rally the troops, hoping to break Ratched's grip on the other patients and imbue them with a sense of autonomy. Simultaneously heart-wrenching and heartwarming, this iconic film swept that year's Academy Awards.
runtime: 134m format: DCP
(Miloš Forman, 1979) · Claude receives a letter to meet the draft board in New York--he's going to Vietnam. He spends the time before his departure wandering the city. Walking through Central Park, he comes across a dancing hippie cult just as an aristocratic rider swoops by on her horse, throwing him a teasing glance. As melancholic and reflective show tunes ensue, Hair explores frictions between class, culture, and relationships in the bristling atmosphere of the 70s. New 35mm print courtesy of Michael Moore and the UCLA Film & Television Archive
runtime: 155m format: 35mm
(Miloš Forman, 1981) · In this "tragicomic mosaic," Forman's keen eye for American society draws out the lively, provocative energy of the country's Gilded Age. Ragtime centers on black pianist Coalhouse Walker, Jr., who begins a fruitless search for justice amidst the passions, racial tensions, and violence that besiege New York City. Featuring memorable performances by Howard E. Rollins, Jr. and an out-of-retirement James Cagney, the film's equal shares in hope and rage echo its motto: "Bad time, good time, Ragtime."
runtime: 155m format: 35mm
(Miloš Forman, 1984) · Stately, dignified, calculated, polished: these are the qualities that talented musician Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) expects and demands of himself and others in the music scene of 18th-century Vienna. But when the preposterous, unruly, and unprofessional genius of one Amadeus Mozart overshadows him, Salieri seeks revenge on the young composer in a one-sided feud that may result in both their downfalls. This film of truly epic proportions (and winner of the Oscar for Best Picture) is not to be missed.
runtime: 180m format: DCP
(Miloš Forman, 1989) · Forman followed up Amadeus with another period drama, this time adapting the 18th-century novel Les Liaisons dangereuses. A young, mulleted Colin Firth stars as the titular Vicomte de Valmont, who enters into a competition with his widowed lover (Annette Bening) over the seduction of a seemingly incorruptible married woman. The elaborate scaffolding of sexual intrigue that they build up soon threatens to collapse and bring them down with it. 35mm collection print courtesy of UCLA Film & Television Archive
runtime: 137m format: 35mm