An excerpt from the booklet essay by Peter Hames
Vojtěch Jasný (1925-2019) was born in the Moravian town of Kelč, studied at FAMU (the Prague Film School) and graduated in 1951. Together with a fellow student, Karel Kachyňa, he co-directed a notable graduation film with It’s Not Always Cloudy (Není stále zamračeno, 1949), which is included on this disc. The critic Antonín Liehm admired it for its attention to non-studio reality, a potential breakthrough which came somewhat out of its time ‘when it couldn’t establish an epoch’. Between 1950 and 1954, Jasný and Kachyňa continued their collaboration on a sequence of eight documentaries before making the feature It Will All be Over Tonight (Dnes večer všechno skončí, 1955). Both had studied cinematography as well as direction and this no doubt accounts for the strong visual emphasis in their work. Jasný’s first solo feature September Nights (Zářijové noci, 1956), was adapted from Pavel Kohout’s play satirising the army, winning the Czechoslovak critics award.
In 1958, he further developed a collaboration with the cinematographer, Jaroslav Kučera that was to extend through most of his Czech career. Their film Desire (1958), according to the Czech critic Jan Žalman, marked a renaissance of form and a return to the kind of poetic cinema that had characterised Czech film in the 1930s. Based on a screenplay by Vladimír Valenta (who later acted the role of the stationmaster in Menzel's Closely Observed Trains), it consisted of four stories, each set during a different season of the year, and each corresponding to the four ages of men and women. Its powerful visual lyricism has a genuine transformative quality. The story Maminka (Mother), was a tribute to Jasný’s own mother who had died in 1955. It was also the first of his films to win an award at the Cannes Festival.
Much of the strength of Jasný’s films comes from his collaboration with composer Svatopluk Havelka and cinematographer Jaroslav Kučera. Kučera, in particular, has been recognised for his more obviously ‘experimental’ work on Jasný’s Cassandra Cat, aka When the Cat Comes (Až přijde kocour, 1963) and his collaboration with his wife Věra Chytilová on Daisies (Sedmikrásky, 1966) and Fruit of Paradise (Ovoce stromů rajských jíme, 1969). One of the few cinematographers to be granted a full-scale artistic monograph, he had originally intended to be a painter and was clearly aware of the broader field of the visual arts. In a 1967 interview with Antonín Liehm, he explicitly referred to his desire to take the visual image beyond illustration to the creation of meaning in its own right. Kateřina Švatoňová suggests that Kučera’s work provides ‘a different way of seeing’, that his work moves beyond transparency toward the aesthetic image of reality. At the same time, Jasný’s own collection of photographs suggests that, especially in Desire and All My Good Countrymen, they shared a vision. All three of Jasný’s Moravian triptych – Desire, Cassandra Cat, All My Good Countrymen – were inspired by the ‘lost paradise’ that he was to revisit in his 1999 film.
Peter Hames' complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the release.
Blu-Ray & DVD Reviews
(i) Jasný interviewed at Radio Prague (2008)
(ii) Made in Prague: The Work of Vojtěch Jasný
(iii) Vojtech Jasný: Photographs
(iv) In Between Images: Cinematographer Jaroslav Kučera’s Media Practices
Czechoslovakia, 1958 / 1968
Desire: 95 minutes
All My Good Countrymen:
Special features: 118 minutes
Sound: 2.0 / 1.0 Mono LPCM (48k/24-bit)
Black and white / Colour
Original aspect ratios: 1.37:1
Blu-ray: BD50 x 2 / 1080 / 24fps Region ABC (Region Free)
Release Date: 8 August 2022