We’ve been having a lot of fun hosting our Anniversary Classics screening along with Los Angeles Film Critics Association President Stephen Farber. Following EXODUS (Eva Marie Saint in person!), WHERE’S POPPA? (George Segal in person!) and LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS (Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna in person and tickets still available!), our fourth screening is our first subtitled film in the series and our first in the Valley: THE SHOP ON MAIN STREET (1965) was the first film from Eastern Europe ever to win an Academy Award. Fifty years ago this powerful Czech drama won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. Directed by Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos, it was one of the key films in the Czech New Wave that flourished in the 1960s, before the Soviet invasion of 1968 stamped out this vital movement. Josef Kroner and Yiddish theater legend Ida Kaminska (nominated for an Oscar for her performance) star in this poignant tale of an Aryan functionary who takes over the button shop of an elderly Jewish woman in a Slovakian town in 1942. They develop a tentative friendship that is threatened when the Nazis begin rounding up all the Jews in the area.
Esteemed critic Kenneth Tynan said this was “the most moving film about anti-Semitism ever made.” Oscar-nominated screenwriter Eleanor Perry (David and Lisa, Diary of a Mad Housewife) reviewed the film for Life magazine and called it “a masterpiece, a flawless examination of the toll of indecision and the penalty of passive decency.” Perry went on to write, “The film’s lasting power is that it poses a couple of additional questions to every spectator: ‘If it had been you, what would you have done?’ If it ever is you, what will you do?'”
Joining Stephen Farber for a post-screening discussion, special guests director Ivan Passer and Michal Sedlacek, Consul General of Czech Republic in Los Angeles. Mr. Passer was one of the directors of the Czech New Wave of the 1960s. His acclaimed film, Intimate Lighting, was also made in 1965. He was the co-writer of Milos Forman’s films Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen’s Ball. Like Forman, he emigrated to America after the Russian invasion. In this country he directed such films as Born to Win with George Segal, Law and Disorder with Carroll O’Connor, Cutter’s Way with Jeff Bridges, and the Emmy-winning HBO movie, Stalin, starring Robert Duvall.