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The Puppet Master: The Films of Jiří Trnka

  • November 17, 2018 – November 25, 2018

Revered as the pioneer of a remarkable new genre of animation that utilized puppets, Trnka conveyed the drama and psychology of his characters through his figures’ body language, expressive lighting, and camera movement. The director’s approach to puppet film as a serious art form was borne out of the lively Czech puppet theater tradition, which helped preserve the language over centuries of Hapsburg rule when there were no Czech schools, theater, or books published in the language. Already a prolific artist, author, and beloved book illustrator in his country, Trnka made films that had enormous impact on the development of Czech animation, and he inspired the careers of generations of filmmakers and animators around the globe.

Trnka’s body of work as a director—18 short and six feature-length animated films in total—was rivaled only by Walt Disney Studios in output and brought him international acclaim, from Cannes to Venice and beyond. With his puppet animation studio, founded in 1946, he helped lay the groundwork for Czech animation predominance alongside stop-motion animation masters Karel Zeman, Hermína Týrlová, Jan Švankmajer, and Jiří Barta.

This best-of retrospective series presents, among others, Trnka’s Venice Film Festival prize-winning first feature The Czech Year, his Shakespeare adaptation A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and shorts programs featuring the filmmaker’s unique early work in hand-drawn cartoons (including Cannes Film Festival prize-winning The Animals and the Brigands), his magical family-friendly works, and his later, more formally and politically defiant films (featuring his final masterpiece, The Hand, about the plight of artists toiling under the restrictions of a totalitarian government).—Irena Kovarova.

The touring retrospective The Puppet Master: The Films of Jiří Trnka is produced by Comeback Company, originated at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Curated by Irena Kovarova. Films provided by the Czech National Film Archive.

Sat, Nov 17

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Directed by Jiří Trnka

In this bewitching adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic fairy tale, the love lives of mortals and forest sprites mingle during one

Sun, Nov 18

A Star from the Start: Early Jiří Trnka Shorts

Directed by Jiří Trnka

Trnka’s early shorts work quickly established him as a master filmmaker. This program includes The Animals and the Brigands (1946),

Sun, Nov 18

The Czech Year

Directed by Jiří Trnka

Trnka established his reputation as a world-renowned master of puppet animation with his Venice prize-winning first feature, a kinetic visual

Sat, Nov 24

The Emperor’s Nightingale

Directed by Jiří Trnka, Miloš Makovec

Trnka’s adaptation of a classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale is an enchanting animated jewel box. Framed by live action

Sun, Nov 25

Mature Mastery: Late Jiří Trnka Shorts

Directed by Jiří Trnka

This program of late-career Trnka works includes The Good Soldier Švejk Part 3 (1954), Passion (1962), Cybernetic Grandma (1962), and