Eastern European Film

This coming semester (starting next week) I will be teaching a class on Eastern European Films 1956-2006. The syllabus (basically a list of films being screened) is here. I am teaching this class basically in order to learn more about the subject myself; I’m no expert. I am showing a few films I love (Vera Chytilova’s Daisies, Dusan Makavejev’s WR: Mysteries of the Organism, Bela Tarr’s Damnation, Emir Kusturica’s Underground, Jan Svankmajer’s Lunacy), a few that I respect more than love (works by Andrzej Wajda and Krzystof Kieslowski, for instance), and a good number that I have never seen before. There are films from Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovkia and its successor states, Romania, and Yugoslavia and its successor states. (MIssing — due to my ignorance rather than any better reason — are films from Bulgaria and Albania).

One of the class requirements is for each of the students to keep a film journal, in which they comment on each of the films we see. In order to set an example — or perhaps because I will also be learning about this stuff myself — I will do likewise, and comment on all the films we see in this blog. (And perhaps on some additional films as well, which I watch as background).

If nothing else, this ought to help me to increase the frequency with which I post on this blog — one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2007.

6 thoughts on “Eastern European Film”

  1. That’s very exciting to hear. I love Eastern European cinema. I’m teaching Bela Tarr’s Werckmesiter Harmonies this semester for the International Arts Society film series here at the University of Arizona. I really look forward to reading what you have to say about Damnation and all the other films too. Very cool. And I’m uber glad to see that you’ll be posting more — especially about FILM!

  2. Milkos Jancso is one of my favorite directors of all time, maybe my favorite living director (since Imamura just died). Red and the White is my favorite of his films, and a stone-cold masterpiece in my opinion. Walter Reade had a retrospective of him a few months back, greeted with gaping yawns and near-empty auditoriums. It was sad. His work deserves to be more widely available.

    Jan Nemec is also a significant Czech director. “Diamonds in the Night” (based on a Lustig story) is interesting for its weird montage technique of fantasy and reality. Very memorable.

  3. I haven’t seen any Jancso in years, but I remember loving the few of his films I saw — so I will be showing The Red and the White in my class (and maybe, if I get a chance, I will watch some more of his films on my onw).
    As for Nemec, his films seem almost entirely unavailable — there is almost nothing in print on DVD (or VHS — amazon.com lists a VHS copy of Diamonds in the Night used for $114.72).

  4. Kim’s Underground here in New York has a couple VHS videos by Nemec, including Diamonds, so I would guess they’re available for rent by mail order from Best Video here.

  5. a lot of rights got sorted out in Hungary, thats what I read sometime last autumn, so actually the old classics get released now. unfortunately not with subtitles.

    Regarding Jancsó. Back in 2000 I got a Multimedia CD about Jancsó´s work, which is bilingual (hungarian-english). It contains film details, critiques, essays and audio.

    The producer and editors are: László Hartai and Tibor Hirsch, who maintain the website http://www.jancso.film.hu/

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