Already admired for his screenwriting contributions to some of the most celebrated films of the famed Czech New Wave (including Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen’s Ball, cowritten with director Milos Forman), Ivan Passer’s major contribution to the movement came in 1965 with his astonishing directorial debut, Intimate Lighting. The film’s lightness and casual elegance veils a trenchant, sensitive portrait of friendship and provincial life; shot through with compassion, humanity, and a keen sense of the absurd, it perfectly expresses the tone and rhythms of real life. Intimate Lighting exemplifies Passer’s remarkable ability to capture atmosphere and to craft detailed psychological portraits.
After immigrating to the U.S., Passer attempted to retain his unique vision by shooting two films in New York, a city that reminded him of home. Those films, Born to Win and Law and Disorder (both of which Passer also cowrote) display his characteristic talents: capturing human foibles, unveiling the tragicomic nature of group interactions, and celebrating the ins and outs of close friendships. Friendship is also at the core of the unclassifiable but masterful Cutter’s Way, an early high point of Passer’s American career. Something of a misunderstood sensation upon its 1981 release, the film’s reputation has subsequently been rehabilitated thanks to its unique vision.
Organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, and supported by The Czech Center, New York. Grateful thanks to Criterion/Janus Films; Swank; and Irena Kovarova.