Karel Vachek: Poet Provacateur (II)
October 28, 2009 (Wed) - 1:00pm, Harvard Film Archive

Balgan Film Series in collaboration with The Film Study Center, the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, the Davis Center Literature and Culture Seminarat at Harvard University are pleased to welcome Karel Vachek, the groundbreaking Czech filmmaker whose works mix cinema verité, improvisation, and staged scenes, creating a fascinating perspective on the political and intellectual history of the Czech Republic.

Little known outside his own country, the poet provocateur and philosopher Karel Vachek (b. 1940) is one of the Czech cinema’s most original talents. His recent works, so-called "film-novels," are antic, obsessive, kaleidoscopic epics of impressive cinematic skill and enormous scope and ambition. His works reveal the proximity between the serious and absurd sides of life with a viewpoint that is belligerent, comic and shrewd.

A teacher at FAMU, the Czech National Film Academy, since 1994, and head of its documentary department since 2002, Vachek has gained a growing reputation as one of the Czech Republic’s greatest living directors.

This presentation is part of a touring series curated by Irena Kovarova and Alice Lovejoy. Produced by Radim Procházka Productions with the support of The Czech Republic State Fund for Support and Development of Cinematography.


"Mixing cinema verité, improvisation, and staged scenes, Vachek’s polyphonic films border on chaos; yet for those who are patient, his carefully selected threads weave into a fascinating and informative perspective on the political and intellectual history of the Czech Republic"
— Kathy Geritz, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

“If you haven’t figured it out by now, these movies resist easy descriptive grasp — their restlessness, sprawl and genre-defying sense of play must be experienced, heavy a time investment as that might seem. They are not, however, ‘heavy’ films, but frequently delightful ones." — Dennis Harvey, SF360

"Like Michael Moore, whose desire for provocation he shares, or Ross McElwee, like Vachek at times a picaresque figure, Vachek is a central presence in all of his films, in deep conversation (often argument) with his subjects." — Alice Lovejoy


Elective Affinities (35mm, 85min, 1968) "The oft-borrowed title is here a pun, since this documentary looks behind the scenes during the stormy Czech election of March 1968, when Antonin Novotny resigned as president and other politicians jockeyed to keep themselves, and the Prague Spring they had engineered, in place. The cinematography by Jozef Ort-Snep is intimate, intrusive, ironic; there’s nary a talking head in the picture. Rather, images of nervous hands and half-shut eyes, of bottles in a meeting hall and bottoms firmly planted in their chairs, immovable, accompany the conversations. The talk is fascinating, an exposé of process and passion, optimism and its opposite, the shadow of doubt. Among the politicians in the film are Novotny, Alexander Dubchek, and General Ludvik Svoboda, whose election as president marks the end of the film and so much else." – Pacific Film Archive.