Tomáš Baldýnský is one of the Czech Republic’s leading film critics and is known for not pulling any punches in his reviews. He is also the unpaid chairman of the government body which supports Czech film-making, though his term in the post ends soon. When we met the other day we discussed how he manages to reconcile those two activities. But that was after I put it to Tomáš Baldýnský that given the fact most movies aren’t particularly good, it must be hard to maintain his enthusiasm for reviewing.
There’s a rather unusual film festival underway at Prague’s Ořechovka cinema at the moment. Called “The Magic Eights”, it examines the strange significance of the number "8" in modern Czech history. The festival features around a dozen films either made in or about the crucial moments in this country’s recent past, most of which occurred in a year ending in "8".
In this edition of Music Profile we take a brief look back at the long career of the undisputed king of Czech pop music, Karel Gott. The multi-million selling singer released his first single, a jazzy duet, in 1962. Just twelve months later Gott was voted Czechoslovakia's best singer; by the end of the decade he had become an international star.
On Thursday, Prague’s Barrandov film studios celebrated their 75th birthday. Over the past three-quarters of a century, the studios have housed over 2,500 film shoots. It all started with the thriller ‘Vrazda v Ostrovni ulici’ (Murder on Ostrovni Street) – the first Czech film to combine dialogue with music. In more recent years, international blockbusters like the James Bond film Casino Royale have been shot on location in Barrandov’s hallowed halls. To mark its anniversary, I spoke to Norbert Auerbach, former head of Hollywood studio United Artists,
The life and work of Jiří Sequens, a Czech film director who died in Prague on Monday at the age of 85, could well be the subject of a movie. A skilled filmmaker with a special gift for action adventures and detective stories, Sequens created one of the most popular and best received crime series in the history of Czech Television. But he also put his talent in the service of communist propaganda, filming the infamous '30 Cases of Major Zeman' which distorted modern Czech history in an unparalleled way.
It’s Monday evening and the ballroom in Prague’s Lucerna is slowly filling up with teenagers in evening dresses. Girls are rushing to the dressing room to take off their trainers and slip into high-heeled shoes while boys are instructed to tuck in their shirts and spit out their chewing gums before they are allowed onto the dance floor. A lot has changed since 15 years ago, when I used to come here, but the tradition of Czech dancing lessons or “taneční”, as they are called, appears to enjoy the same popularity.
The pop star Miroslav Žbirka is more commonly known as Miro, and his childhood nickname Meky, by his many fans here in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Prague-based singer released his first record in the late 1970s, with the group Modus, and is still having hits as a solo artist today. Miro Žbirka was born in Bratislava in 1952 to a Slovak father and an English mother. When we spoke the other day, he told me about his parents’ first meeting, in a north London pub.
The 17th century Czech philosopher and writer, Jan Amos Komenský – known internationally as Comenius - is one of the best known Czechs of all time. He is most widely celebrated for his progressive and enlightened ideas about education that earned him the epithet “the Teacher of Nations”. But the many other aspects of his thinking - and he was indeed a prolific writer with some 250 books to his name – remain somewhat neglected. This is something that Benjamin Kuras has decided to try to put right, in a small but inspiring book that he has just written
Former dissident/playwright turned president Václav Havel remains one of the country’s most well-known and most respected figures, both at home and abroad, whose rise to office had the making of both fairy tale and absurdist drama. In the early ‘90s, Vanity Fair published a famous piece about Mr Havel as a president unlike any other: a man with a scooter to zip through the corridors of Prague Castle, a president who invited Frank Zappa to the capital, in short, a kind of head of state no one had seen before.
This week, Prague citizens have the rare opportunity to take a close look at and even leaf through a priceless medieval illustrated Bible. Not the original manuscript, of course, but a life-size colour replica of the 14th-century Velislav Picture Bible. The book, containing selected passages from the Bible along with two legends about the Bohemian patron saints Ludmila and Wenceslas, is one of the largest medieval pictorial books made in Central Europe.