News Karlovy Vary IFF will pay tribute to Jiří Brdečka

Published: April 25, 2017| 04:45 PM

The 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival has prepared to pay tribute to the legend of Czech cinematography Jiří Brdečka on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birthday. The festival will present the well-known film Lemonade Joe and the cross-section of the Brdečka’s short films.

It would certainly not be an exaggeration to state that, from the middle of the last century onwards, everyone in this country with an interest in culture would have come across the name Jiří Brdečka. Biographies and articles about him begin with an impressive list of the professions he mastered – journalism, writing, scripting, art and design, illustration and film direction; each would ostensibly have required not only unflagging diligence but, above all, talent. Such a gift had very specific traits and one couldn’t do it justice in only a few words. Brdečka was a poeta doctus, a “learned poet” educated in numerous cultural spheres. When he wrote short stories and screenplays, he found inspiration in a variety of literary works and genres, crafting paraphrases and variations with a refined sense of language. And when he decided to make an animated film – in the majority of cases providing the story and directing the piece himself – he knew exactly which artistic expression would best suit the given subject matter. He had a particular fondness for the type of dramas depicted in kitsch art – he revelled in their tawdriness and yet he was able to draw out their innate emotional purity, hence the curious blend of derision and nostalgia that was typical for his narrative style.

It was extremely auspicious that film played a major role in Brdečka’s career from the outset; his artistry thus found its way into the public domain, and viewers spontaneously absorbed his lessons in word culture, elegant humour, resourceful storytelling, and in a subtle irony filled with intellectual references and hidden messages. It was characteristic of him to attract such luminaries as Jiří Trnka and Jan Werich, directors Martin Frič, Jiří Weiss, Oldřich Lipský, Bořivoj Zeman, Karel Zeman, and also Vojtěch Jasný and Václav Vorlíček, whose works were based on his screenplays or involved his collaboration on the script and are now part of the Czech film industry’s gold collection. Movie enthusiasts are familiar with Trnka’s feature-length puppet animations Old Czech Legends (1952) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1959), Frič’s historical comedy The Emperor’s Baker – The Baker’s Emperor (1951), the brilliantly inspired genre parodies Lemonade Joe (1964), Adele’s Dinner (1977) and The Mysterious Castle in the Carpathians (1983), all directed by Oldřich Lipský, and his fairy tales for children (Once Upon a Time, There Was a King; Stick, Start Beating!; The Prince and the Evening Star) and for adults (The Outrageous Baron Munchausen; That Cat…). Audiences are less aware, however, that Brdečka also worked on the screenplays for various film dramas, among them Lost People (1956, dir. Miloš Makovec) and The Wolf Trap (1957, dir. Jiří Weiss), and that one of his short stories provided the basis for Věra Chytilová’s 1983 film The Very Late Afternoon of a Faun. Moreover, the international critical acclaim afforded to the Czech animation school during the 1950s and 1960s was in great part due to him: Not only did he have a flair for bringing in highly original artists and illustrators, but he also transformed an art form intended chiefly for children into a tool for metaphorical reflection on weighty themes. It seems incredible that 2017 marks a full century since this multitalented Maestro was born. ​

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