A Report on the Party and Guests

(O slavnosti a hostech)
Czechoslovakia 1966. Director: Jan Němec
Cast: Ivan Vyskočil, Jan Klusák, Jiří Němec, Pavel Bošek, Karel Mareš

“The most controversial film ever produced by the Czech New Wave” (Peter Hames), Jan Němec's best-known work is an absurdist satire on power relations, the imperative to be “happy” under totalitarianism, and the way people adapt themselves to a society’s prevailing ideology. It was banned for two years, released during the brief Prague Spring of 1968, then banned again — and later was one of four films declared “banned forever” by the Czech authorities in 1973! A group of men and women enjoying an idyllic picnic in the woods are accosted and interrogated by several thuggish strangers, then rescued by a genial “host” who invites them all to a magnificent outdoor banquet. Němec co-wrote the script with then-wife Ester Krumbachová, who also contributed to Věra Chytilová’s Daisies. The cast is made up of noted Czech artists and writers — including, as the guest who flees, filmmaker Evald Schorm, whose 1968 film The End of a Priest was also one of that quartet “banned forever.” “One of the most important masterpieces of the Czech film renaissance ... As we watch its deceptive progress, Renoir turns into Buñuel and we discover a scathing, pessimistic statement about human conduct under totalitarianism” (Amos Vogel). B&W, 35mm, in Czech with English subtitles. 70 mins.

 

REVIEWS

"A typically iconoclastic effort from the husband-and-wife director-screenwriter team of Jan Nemec and Ester Krumbachova."

New York Times | full review