Close Up

22 - 30 April 2017: The Image Speaks: Miloš Forman and the Free Cinema Movement


"Implicit in our attitude is a belief in freedom, in the importance of people and in the significance of the everyday" – Lindsay Anderson, Free Cinema Manifesto

Close-Up and Czech Centre London present a season focusing on the rejection of established cinematic norms core to the early works of Czech director Miloš Forman and his contemporaries from the British Free Cinema movement. Marking the occasion of Miloš Forman’s 85th birthday, and screening mostly from original 16mm and 35mm prints, this programme uncovers for the first time the striking and instructive resemblances in the development of Czech and British cinema which evolved on parallel and sometimes interconnecting courses.

In Britain young filmmakers led by Lindsay Anderson rejected mainstream 1950s British films detached from the social reality of everyday life. Calling for personal, authentic cinema representing ordinary, working class people they screened their films as part of the National Film Theatre programme between 1956 and 1959 coining the term Free Cinema.

Czech director Miloš Forman, mostly known for his multiple Academy Award winning films One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus, started his film career in opposition to classic narrative cinema harnessed to ideological conformity. As was the case in Britain, everyday reality was absent from Czech screens so Forman started to use mainly non-professional actors and scripts almost totally lacking in conventional dramatic development, based on the reality surrounding him. 

Anderson’s own work is represented in the programme by his largely improvised documentary Everyday Except Christmas capturing the life of the Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market and celebrating ordinary people at work with virtuoso cinematography and an imaginative soundtrack.

Programme 1: A Blonde in Love / Poor Cow

A Blonde in Love, Miloš Forman, 1965, 75 min, B/W, 35mm
Poor Cow, Ken Loach, 1967, 101 min, Colour, DCP

"[A Blonde in Love] made a great impression on me when it first came out; its shrewd perceptiveness, irony, warmth. It allowed characters time to reveal themselves. You weren’t manipulated like US films, but it was also pleasantly free of the stylistic devices typical of the French films". – Ken Loach read more

Programme 2: The Firemen’s Ball / Together

The Firemen's Ball, Miloš Forman, 1967, 72 min, Colour, Digital
Together, Lorenza Mazzetti, 1956, 52 min, B/W, 35mm

Introduced by Dr David Sorfa

Milos Forman's strong, often-uncomfortable social satire is screened alongside Lorenza Mazzetti’s poetic Together, a semi-documentary about two deaf mutes in London’s East End, edited by Lindsay Anderson. read more

Programme 3: Audition / Momma Don’t Allow

Audition, Miloš Forman, 1963, 79 min, B/W, 35mm
Momma Don’t Allow, Karel Reisz & Tony Richardson, 1956, 22 min, B/W, 16mm

Introduced by Peter Hames

"Documentary" footage of auditions for the Prague theatre which Forman filmed on 16mm for his own interest and as a record formed the basis of his 1963 debut film Audition. Consisting of two films, If There Were No Music focusing on the rehearsals of amateur musicians preparing for annual brass band championships, and Audition, capturing hopeful would-be singers, the film effectively launched the Czech New Wave. Sharing Audition's humble beginnings, a desire to record hidden reality and with little prospect of being screened, is Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson’s Momma Don’t Allow. Shot on 16mm as an account of an evening at the Wood Green Jazz Club and similarly to Audition, it captures the emerging youth culture. read more

Programme 4: Free Cinema Movement

Everyday Except Christmas, Lindsay Anderson, 1957, 40 min, B/W, 16mm
Refuge England, Robert Vas, 1959, 27 min, B/W, 16mm
We Are the Lambeth Boys, Karel Reisz, 1959, 52 min, B/W, 35mm

Introduced by Peter Hames

In this programme, solely devoted to the Free Cinema films, Robert Vas’s Refuge England provides another unique record of London in the late 1950s. Instead of the bombsites, narrow streets, warehouses and pubs of the East End, it follows, from Waterloo via the West End to suburbia, the footsteps of a Hungarian refugee arriving in London with no English, little money and an incomplete address. read more

Programmed in collaboration with Czech Centre London: