The Walker Art Center’s ongoing
Regis Dialogue and Film Retrospective
program, which brings together some of the most innovative and influential filmmakers of our time with leading critics, writers, and historians, turns its spotlight on Czechoslovakian-born filmmaker Milo Forman with a showcase of his work presented April 1–22. Nearly every major Forman work, including such successful American releases as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Hair, Ragtime, and Amadeus, is showcased in
Milo Forman: Cinema of Resistance
, which on Tuesdays features screenings of his early Czech work. A Regis Dialogue with Forman and LA Weekly film critic Scott Foundas will take place at 8 pm Saturday, April 12. Other highlights include screenings of Forman’s first English-language film Taking Off; Goya’s Ghosts, his return to feature filmmaking after a seven-year hiatus; and The People vs. Larry Flynt, starring Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, and Edward Norton. A complete series schedule follows.
Nearly 50 cinematic luminaries, visionaries, and dignitaries have come to the Walker via the Regis Dialogue and Film Retrospective program. Forman is typically associated with the celebrated and award-winning films he has made in the United States over the past 30 years. A lesser-known fact is that he kick-started the Czech New Wave with his affecting and humorous satires of daily life. These films illustrate a thread that appears throughout Forman’s work—that of rigid political and social systems begging for rebellion.
“[When I lived] in totalitarian regimes, I saw more clearly than you do here how we create institutions to help us—to serve us,” Forman has said. “Why do we always end up being dictated to by these institutions? Like they own us . . . are paying us to serve them. And that’s always the case of rebellions, when people who see this dare to do something about it, from McMurphy to Mozart.”
“There’s an incredible vibrancy in the Czech Republic today, especially as they are now looking back to their darker days and relishing the work of artists like Milo Forman,” says Sheryl Mousley, the Walker’s film/video curator. “His resistance parallels the history of his country under oppression. He struggled to make work against formidable odds, emigrating just before the spring 1968 invasion of his country by the Soviets. And you see that carrying through into his American films—the heroic, almost operatic characters, the rebelliousness and joy and search for this freedom. That’s the beauty of this retrospective.”
All films are directed by Milo Forman and will be screened in the Cinema. Unless otherwise noted, tickets to each screening are $8 ($6 Walker members). Regis Dialogue tickets are available exclusively to Walker members beginning March 4; remaining tickets go on sale to the public March 18.
Receive five tickets for the price of three: $24 ($18 Walker members)
This program is made possible by generous support from Regis Foundation.
MILO FORMAN: CINEMA OF RESISTANCE
A REGIS DIALOGUE AND RETROSPECTIVE
Tuesday, April 1
Czech Film Tuesdays
Black Peter (Černý Petr), 7:30 pm
Loosely translated as “Black Sheep,” this coming-of-age tale portended a rising directorial talent in the Czech New Wave. Called “a timeless comedy” by Newsweek, Forman’s comic tribute to the awkwardness of youth won first prize at the Locarno Film Festival, an invitation from the New York Film Festival, and international acclaim. 1964, 35mm, in Czech with English subtitles, 85 minutes.
Wednesday, April 2
Goya’s Ghosts, 7:30 pm
Forman’s return to feature filmmaking after seven years of teaching depicts the struggle for religious and social freedom embodied by Francisco Goya’s paintings. Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, and Javier Bardem star in a dramatic tale spun around anti-Semitism, the Inquisition, and the imperative of art. An exquisitely beautiful sketch of an era in Spain’s history, Goya’s Ghosts was lauded by Premiere as “one of Forman’s most ambitious and daring films.” 2007, 35mm, 113 minutes.
Friday, April 4
Amadeus, 7:30 pm
A riveting celebration of genius, Amadeus was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won eight, including best director and picture. The New York Times called the film “simultaneously illuminating, moving and just. It’s a major achievement.” The story of the great composer’s life, marking the director’s return to Prague for location shooting, features F. Murray Abraham’s haunting portrayal of the conflicted Antonio Salieri and the contrastingly energized title-role performance of Tom Hulce, who was likened by critic Roger Ebert to an “18th-century Bruce Springsteen.” 1984, 35mm, 180 minutes.
Saturday, April 5
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 7:30 pm
Based on the novel by Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest swept the five major Oscar categories, including best director. This Vietnam War–era film set in a mental institution is a devastating portrait of the crushing of an individual’s spirit. Louise Fletcher as the steely Nurse Ratched and Jack Nicholson as anti-hero McMurphy turn in pitch-perfect performances. A trio of then-unknowns portraying the patients—Danny DeVito, Brad Dourif, and Vincent Schiavelli—illustrates Forman’s uncanny ability to find and cast extraordinary faces in small roles. 1975, new print made from the original camera negative (courtesy Academy Film Archive), 133 minutes.
Sunday, April 6
Ragtime, 2 pm
Based on the sweeping novel by E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime depicts the social, racial, and economic turmoil of early 20th-century America through the prism of several intertwining New York characters. It centers on the story of Coalhouse Walker, Jr. (in an astonishing performance by Howard E. Rollins, Jr.), a black piano player who fights injustice at the hands of redneck firemen. The cast includes Elizabeth McGovern, Mandy Patinkin, Debbie Allen, Norman Mailer, and James Cagney in his final movie appearance. Roger Ebert describes Ragtime as a “loving, beautifully mounted, graceful film.” 1981, 35mm, 155 minutes.
Tuesday, April 8
Czech Film Tuesdays
Loves of a Blonde (Lásky jedné plavovlásky), 7:30 pm
A small-town factory girl shares a night of young love with a touring piano player, and their expectations collide with devastating and hilarious effect when she shows up on his doorstep in the city. This acutely felt satire of Czech daily life, called “compassionate, painfully true and continually beguiling” (Time), opened the New York Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. 1965, new 35mm print, in Czech with English subtitles, 88 minutes.
Wednesday, April 9
The People vs. Larry Flynt, 7:30 pm
Forman originally rejected the job of bringing Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt to the silver screen, but changed his mind when confronted with the free-speech issues implicit in that controversial figure’s life. “The first thing that the Nazis and the Communists attacked was pornography and perverts. Attack smut and pornography and nobody will go in the streets and demonstrate. Everyone will applaud,” Forman has said. “Usually, that’s just the first step or pretext to get more and more control of society and to consolidate power.” Starring Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, and Edward Norton. 1996, 35mm, 129 minutes.
Friday, April 11
Taking Off, 7:30 pm
Forman’s first English-language film (which the director calls his “last Czech film”), Taking Off won a special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. An absurdist comedy that, according to Senses of Cinema, “successfully welded together (Forman’s) passions for physical comedy and social satire,” the film concerns a teenage daughter who runs away from the privileged home of her parents (Buck Henry and Lynn Carlin). They connect with the Society for Parents of Fugitive Children and do a little rebelling of their own. 1971, 35mm, 93 minutes.
Saturday, April 12
Regis Dialogue with Milo Forman and Scott Foundas, 8 pm
$25 ($20 Walker members)
Milo Forman and LA Weekly film critic Scott Foundas discuss the director’s celebrated career, punctuated by clips from his films
Sunday, April 13
Hair, 2 pm
In 1967, shortly after moving to New York, Forman happened upon the first preview of the Public Theater’s new production, Hair. Adapted for the screen 10 years later, his tribute to this Broadway rock musical is a highly original encapsulation of 1960s ideals, featuring spirited performances by John Savage, Beverly D’Angelo, and the raucous Treat Williams. The Czech cinematographer Miroslav Ondříček and choreographer Twyla Tharp contribute to the visual energy. 1979, 35mm, 121 minutes.
Wednesday, April 16
Czech Film Tuesdays
The Firemen’s Ball (Hoří, má panenko), 7:30 pm
Everything that can go wrong does in this uproarious spoof of a fund-raising dance put on by a group of small-town volunteer firemen. The film was banned in Czechoslovakia—censors viewed the inept protagonists as an allegory of Czech political institutions (Forman maintains that it is really about firemen). Perhaps both sides are correct. As J. Hoberman writes: “The Firemen’s Ball exemplifies the ironic humanism and sly political allegory characteristic of the Czech New Wave.” 1967, new 35mm print, in Czech with English subtitles, 73 minutes.
Tuesday, April 22
Czech Film Tuesdays
Audition (Konkurs), 7:30 pm
Forman’s rarely screened early film is composed of two short films: Audition and If There Were No Music (Kdyby ty muziky nebyly). The former is about Czech provincial life and amateur music-making and is considered one of the films that launched the Czech New Wave. The second is a faux documentary of several talent auditions, providing a snapshot of Czech life in the Bohemian 1960s. The films illuminate a passion for music seen throughout Forman’s work. 1963, 35mm (originally 16mm), in Czech with English subtitles, 77 minutes.