For this edition of Virtual Cinémathèque we revel in two wonderful restorations of films adapted from works by Czech writer Karel Čapek. The Melbourne Cinémathèque’s co-curator Cerise Howard provides an overview, notes on each film and plenty of supplementary materials.
2020 marks the 130th anniversary of the birth of Czech novelist, short-story writer, playwright and critic Karel Čapek. Criminally undercelebrated in the anglophone world, his brilliant (and, as we shall see, uncannily prescient) works in a deeply humanist vein of science fiction offer a lot more than merely the gift to English of the word “robot”, as coined in his 1920 play R.U.R. (He did, however, credit the term’s invention to his brother, Josef.)
This program features recent digital restorations by the National Film Archive in Prague of two glorious live-action adaptations of Čapek’s work: the stunning, Expressionist Krakatit (1948) from the director sometimes billed as “the father of Czechoslovak cinema”, Otakar Vávra, and 1937’s The White Disease, directed by and starring Hugo Haas, who led a fascinating career both in front of and behind the camera, first in Czechoslovakia and, later, in America, to either side of WWII.
– Cerise Howard
Please feel free to join in the conversation using the #acmivirtualcteq hashtag this Wednesday 16 September or at another time that suits you.
Keep safe and all the best,
The Melbourne Cinémathèque committee & ACMI
How to watch
Both films in this week's Virtual Cinémathèque are streaming for free on Youtube. Simply click on the links to each film below for further instructions.
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