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Born: Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, 2 February 1929.

Vera Chytilová (JPG, 15 KB)

Czech director. Verz Chytilová worked as a draftswoman, fashion model and continuity person before studying at FAMU [the Film Faculty of the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts] (1957-62). Her commitment to experiment was already apparent in her student films, and her graduation film, Strop/Ceiling (1962), the study of a fashion model, was a defiant mixture of cinéma-vérité and formalism. There were echoes of this in her first feature, O necem jiném / Something Different (1963), which told the parallel stories of a woman gymnast and a housewife, the first as documentary, the second as fiction. Working with her husband, the cinematographer Jaroslav Kucera, and writer/designer Ester Krumbachová, Chytilová directed the two most inventive films of the Czech New Wave, Sedmikrásky / Daisies (1966) and Ovoce stromu rajský jíme / The Fruit of Paradise / We Eat the Fruit of the Trees of Paradise (1969). The first was a non-narrative montage of the destructive antics of two female teenagers which demonstrated that an avant-garde film could also be funny, while the second was an allegorical portrait of male/female relations presented in images of remarkable formal beauty. After the Soviet invasion of 1968, such excesses were not encouraged and Chytilová found herself unable to work. In 1976, she wrote an open letter to President Husák and was surprisingly reinstated, returning with a lively parable of sexual relations, Hra o jablko / The Apple Game (1976), and the unusually abrasive moral tale Panelstory / Prefab Story (1981). She renewed her collaboration with Krumbachová for a comic portrayal of a middle-aged Don Juan, Faunovo velmi pozdní odpoledne / The Very Late Afternoon of a Faun (1983). In recent years she has derived much of her inspiration from theatre, directing a film version of the mime play Sasek a královna / The Jester and the Queen (1987), and working with the avant-garde theatre group Sklep (The Cellar) on Kopytem sem, kopytem tam / Tainted Horseplay / Snowball Reaction / A Hoof Here, A Hoof There (1988). A retrospective of her films was shown on French television in 1989, but she has still to receive similar recognition from the English-speaking world.

— Peter Hames, Encylopedia of European Cinema

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