The vital role played by Prague cafés in intellectual history goes beyond the sphere of the Czech capital and nation to a truly global prominence. The most notable figure in this respect is Franz Kafka, though the city’s café-goers have included a wide variety of artists, philosophers, novelists and the Czech Republic’s first president, Václav Havel.
On the evening of Jan. 19 one of Prague’s classic old-style movie palaces, Kino Lucerna, was full almost to its 454-seat capacity. You might expect this at a premiere of the latest Hollywood blockbuster or a much-talked-about new Czech film, but in fact the crowd was waiting to see the 1961 classic musical “West Side Story” as part of Projekt 100.
Known as “the father of Czech cinema,” Otakar Vávra directed over 50 films in his lifetime — under both the Nazi occupation and Communist regime — and helped found Prague’s famous academy FAMU, where he taught the craft to generations of filmmakers, including “Czech New Wave” masters like Věra Chytilová, Miloš Forman and Jiří Menzel (both Oscar winners), and a decade later, Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica.
As it clocks up its 80th anniversary this November, Barrandov Studios could not be a better barometer for the mercurial fortunes of the Czech nation. The calm nature of the massive main site of the studios belies a place that has been swept by the tides of history — and which also played a role in events.
Inspired by the films of the Czech New Wave, cinematographer Edward Lachman was happy to be at Febiofest with a tribute to his renowned career behind the camera. Having worked with major directors such as Wim Wenders, as well as a virtual who’s who of famous actors, Lachman spoke to Czech Position about working with Kate Winslet, the film of his he values most and his influences.