The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Comeback Company announce The Puppet Master: The Complete Jiri Trnka, the first complete U.S. retrospective of the works of Czech animation master Jiri Trnka (1912-1969), April 20-25. Learn more at filmlinc.org.
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, Hermina Tyrlova, Jan Svankmajer, and Jiri Barta.
This essential series will present all 24 of the artist’s films, including 11 newly translated works and the U.S. premieres of two new digital restorations: Trnka’s Venice Film Festival prize-winning first feature The Czech Year and Old Czech Legends, a breathtaking collection of Bohemian myths. The lineup also features Trnka’s Shakespeare adaptation A Midsummer Night’s Dream, narrated by Richard Burton; his subversive, absurdist, anti-authoritarian trilogy The Good Soldier Svejk; and three distinct 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). Also included is a two-program sidebar dedicated to Jiri Brdecka, a screenwriter and animation director whose close friendship with Trnka occasioned a number of short- and feature-film collaborations.
After originating at the Film Society in April, the series will continue on in variations to tour North America. Trnka’s films will screen at the American Cinematheque (Los Angeles, CA), George Eastman Museum (Rochester, NY), Cleveland Cinematheque/CIA (Cleveland, OH), Harvard Film Archive (Cambridge, MA), Lightbox Film Center (Philadelphia, PA), The Gene Siskel Film Center (Chicago, IL), The Cinematheque (Vancouver, BC, Canada), Cornell Cinema (Ithaca, NY), Speed Art Museum (Louisville, KY), and more to be announced.
The touring retrospective is produced by Comeback Company, with support from the Czech Film Fund. Organized by Irena Kovarova with Florence Almozini and Tyler Wilson. Films provided by the Czech National Film Archive.
Tickets go on sale April 6 and are $15; $12 for students, seniors (62+); $8 for kids under 12; and $10 for Film Society members. See more and save with the 3+ film discount package or All-Access Pass. Learn more at filmlinc.org.
Alex Zucker; Martina Raclavska; Marketa Santrochova, Czech Film Center; Michal Bregant, Katerina Fojtova, Tomas Zurek, Michaela Mertova, Czech National Film Archive. Special thanks to the Czech Center New York.