Vera Chytilova, Key Czech Director of the 1960s New Wave, Dies at 85

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Czech film director Vera Chytilova, one of the leading filmmakers of the new wave of Czechoslovak cinema in the 1960s, has died. She was 85.

Czech public radio and television, citing relatives, say Chytilova, often called the “first lady of Czech cinema,” died Wednesday in Prague after battling an unspecified illness for several years.

Chytilova’s highly acclaimed farcical comedy “Daisies” (1966) proved her reputation as a provocateur and helped establish her as an artistic force at home and abroad.

Like the movies of other new Czech directors of the time, it represented a radical departure from socialist realism, a typical communist-era genre focusing on realistically depicting the working class’ troubles.

The heroes of “Daisies” — two teenage girls — decide to get spoiled because the entire world is spoiled, and they want to have some fun. The film was immediately banned before winning the Grand Prix at the Bergamo Film Festival in Italy in 1967.

Born in the eastern city of Ostrava, Chytilova studied philosophy and architecture and also worked as a model before graduating from Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts in 1962.

Unlike colleagues such as Milos Forman, Jan Nemec and Ivan Passer, Chytilova didn’t emigrate after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. The newly established hard-line communist regime banned her films and barred her from making new films for several years.

Her first movie after the ban, “The Apple Game,” won the Silver Hugo award at the Chicago Film Festival in 1977.

She combined an experimental approach with absurdist humor to target the communist reality and alienated relations between people, and continued doing so even after the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution led by Vaclav Havel.

She said she was never ready to stay silent “when I face anything wrong. I don’t think it is right just to take care of myself.”

Chytilova directed 20 features, and her major works include “Fruit of Paradise,” ”Calamity,” ”Panelstory,” ”The Very Late Afternoon of the Faun” and “The Inheritance.”

Chytilova was known for arguing or even fighting with her crew and shouting at actors. Nobody complained.

Actor Miroslav Donutil called her “one of the greatest female directors of this country. She was able to create such conditions for making her movies that she needed and that she believed will lead to success,” the CTK news agency quoted him as saying.

Chytilova is survived by a daughter Tereza and a son Stepan she had with her second husband, cameraman Jaroslav Kucera, who died in 1991.

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