A TRIBUTE TO MILOS FORMAN (1932-2018)
by Karel Och, Artistic Director of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Milos Forman is one of the outstanding figures of the Czech New Wave of the late 1960s, whose later brilliant career in the West included two Oscars for best director. Born in 1932 in a small Czech town, Caslav, his mother was a hotel manager and his father, a professor. Both were arrested by the Nazis at the outbreak of WWII and sent to concentration camps for supporting the Czech underground, his mother died in Auschwitz and his father in Buchenwald. Raised by his uncles, he studied cinema at the famous Prague film school FAMU, with such famous colleagues as directors Ivan Passer and Jerzy Skolimowsky as well as cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek, who was in charge of cinematography in most of Forman's films, throughout his career. From his first film, "Black Peter" (1963), Forman created his own style of comedy, which he went on to develop in “Love of a Blonde” (1965), the picture which drew the attention of the entire film world to his work. But his next film, “The Firemen's Ball” (1967), today considered a classic in its own right, was banned by the censors for its irreverent treatment of the Communist system, and Forman was later fired from the Barrandov studios, for exploring the possibility of directing a film in the West. Disgusted by this treatment, Forman relocated to the US, but his first film there, “Taking Off” (1971), while praised by the critics, was a commercial disappointment. Nevertheless, producers well, partly because another adaptation of the book, directed by Stephen Frears, was released only one year before. Forman's last three films were all biographical portraits, “The People vs. Larry Flint” (1996) dedicated to the scandalous American publisher, “Man on the Moon” (1999), about the revolutionary comedian Andy Kaufman and the third, “Goya's Ghosts” (2006) portraying the last years of the great Spanish painter. Moving from the West Coast to New York, he was the president of the Columbia University Film School from 1978. Milos Forman passed away at the age of 86, on April 13, 2018.
Karel Och (b. 1974 in Czech Republic) studied law and graduated in film theory and history at Prague’s Charles University. Since 2001, he has worked for the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival as a member of the selection committee. He has programmed KVIFF’s documentary competition and curated tributes and retrospectives dedicated to Sam Peckinpah, John Huston, Michael Powell &Emeric Pressburger, Jean-Pierre Melville and Elio Petri, among others. In 2010 Och was appointed artistic director of the Karlovy Vary IFF. He is a member of the European Film Academy, as wellas the Venice Days jury and member of the commission at the Netherlands Film Fund supporting the development of projects in the international context.
Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz entrusted him in 1975 with the adaptation of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, one of the most discussed novels of the time. The result was a resounding success. Forman's film collected no fewer than five Oscars: for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adapted Script (a performance achieved only twice before in Hollywood). In 1979, Forman adapted a hit musical,“Hair” to the screen.Two years later, in 1981, he attempted an ambitious adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's "Ragtime" with mixed results.But in 1984 produced another hit with his cinematic version of Peter Schaeffer's Mozart biographical play "Amadeus" (1984), which garnered 8 Oscars. “Valmont” (1989), Forman's take on the famous French novel “Liaisons Dangereuses”, did not fare so