A Singular Vision


Czech Director Milos Forman: Established but Still Anti-Establishment

A Singular Vision

Czech Director Milos Forman: Established but Still Anti-Establishment

by Ky N. Nguyen

Esteemed anti-establishment filmmaker Milos Forman, born in Czechoslovakia, is currently being honored with a retrospective at the American Film Institute’s (AFI) Silver Theatre that includes highlights from his illustrious four-decade-long career.

One of his most well-known highlights is 1975’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which will be screened on Aug. 19 and attended by Forman himself in a visit supported by the Embassy of the Czech Republic. The story of a convict (played by Jack Nicholson) leading a revolt in a psychiatric hospital was the first film in 41 years — and still only one of three (along with “It Happened One Night” and “The Silence of the Lambs”) — to sweep the top five Oscar categories.

Another award-winner that’s being screened is 1984’s “Amadeus,” Forman’s depiction of Mozart as a gifted but childish prodigy that nabbed the Best Picture, Director, Actor and Writing Academy Awards, plus four other Oscars, for a total of eight trophies. Forman has also won countless other prizes ranging from European Film Awards to festival honors in Berlin and Cannes.

Jytte Jensen of the film department at New York’s Museum of Modern Art — who organized the AFI retrospective — described Forman’s international success as “a testament to his blend of passionate, personal interpretation, a remarkable ability to capture the zeitgeist, and a healthy dose of black humor. This retrospective celebrates the unique vision he has sustained over 45 years.”

Born in 1932 in a small town outside of Prague, Forman lost both his parents during World War II. When Soviet tanks put down the Prague Spring in August 1968, Forman was in Paris negotiating the production of “Taking Off,” his first American film. Claiming that he was out of the country illegally, his Czech studio fired him, forcing Forman to immigrate to New York, where he began a long career as a multifaceted filmmaker who directed American classics that retained elements European cinema, achieving both critical and commercial acclaim.

“Based on intelligent scripts, Forman’s work is characterized by a sharp anti-authoritarian spirit and a lucid, heartfelt humanism,” according to the AFI Silver Theatre. “His films maintain an intoxicating relevance to contemporary living by identifying iconic trends and events — evident both in his early features (‘Loves of a Blonde,’ ‘The Firemen’s Ball’), which helped jumpstart the legendary Czech New Wave in the mid-1960s, and in his renegade Hollywood films from the 1970s to today (‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ ‘The People Vs. Larry Flynt’).”

The Films of Milos Forman through Sept.3 AFI Silver Theatre 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, Md. For more information, please call (301) 495-6700 or visit www.afi.com/silver/.

About the Author

Ky N. Nguyen is the film reviewer for The Washington Diplomat.