National Films Archives to celebrate Miloš Forman

The director will turn 85 in February, and has made several notable films

Czech-born director Miloš Forman will celebrate his 85th birthday Feb. 18, and the National Film Archives will mark the occasion with a retrospective of his films from Jan. 18 to Feb. 19 in the Ponrepo theater. The festival title is a bit of a pun on the director's name: For Man For All. In keeping with the spirit of the name, it will be a free-for-all, with films will have free admission.

Many of the films are in English, but his early ones before 1968 are in Czech. Most screenings will be from 35 mm film prints from the archive.

Films in English include Taking Off, One Flew Over the Cuckooʼs Nest, Hair, Ragtime, Valmont, People vs. Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon. Conspicuously missing from the schedule is Amadeus as well as his most recent film as a director, Goya's Ghosts.

His Czech-language films in the retrospective include Black Peter (Černý Petr), Loves of a Blonde (Lásky jedné plavovlásky), Audition (Konkurs), A Well-Paid Walk (Dobře placená procházka) and The Firemen's Ball (Hoří, má panenko). The festival also includes the documentaries Visions of Eight, about the 1972 Olympics with a segment by Forman, and the 1981 Belgian film Chytilová versus Forman, made while the latter director was making Ragtime.

Forman is regarded as one of the world's leading filmmakers. He has earned two Oscars, three Golden Globes, and numerous prizes at film festivals. He also won the Klement Gottwald state prize in 1965 and a Medal of Merit in 1995, as well as a Czech Lion in 1997.

Miloš Forman was born as Jan Tomáš Forman in 1932 in Čáslav in then-Czechoslovakia. His films were at the forefront of the Czech New Wave in the 1960s, but he left the country due to the 1968 Soviet-led invasion. He has been back several times though, including in the early 1980s to film Amadeus, and several other times for awards and promotional appearances. He was last in Prague in 2011 to plant trees at the Botanical Garden in Troja.

His first English-language film, Taking Off, was a moderate success. It took a comic look at life in the early 1970s, with a middle-class couple looking for their runaway daughter, and instead smoking marijuana to see its effects on youth. The film was Kathy Bates screen debut, and also has a brief appearance by singer Carly Simon before she was famous and concert cameo by Tina Turner.

Forman shot to fame though, with One Flew Over the Cuckooʼs Nest, based on the popular novel and starring Jack Nicholson. The film is about a sane inmate in a harsh mental institution.

Hair was an adaptation of the musical stage hit, and was only a moderate success despite generally good reviews. Ragtime took viewers back to the early 1900s for a vast panorama of society, based on the novel by E. L. Doctorow. Golden-era actors James Cagney and Pat O'Brien make brief appearances, and young Samuel L. Jackson is also in the cast.

The costume drama Valmont did poorly at the box office, mostly because it came out right after the more popular Dangerous Liaisons, based on the same story. Critics praised the production values and costumes of Forman's version, and the director's overall vision of the material.

Forman jumped from history to current affairs in The People vs. Larry Flynt, based on the life and legal battles of the publisher of a porn magazine. It as critical success and won awards for the film overall and for the script and individual cast members in several festivals and award ceremonies worldwide.

Man on the Moon is another take on a famous real person, this time comedian Andy Kaufman, whose fame spun a bit out of control. Jim Carrey played Kaufman.

In Visions of Eight, Forman is one of eight directors making short segments about the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Forman's segment focused on the decathlon.

For more information, visit (CZ)

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