Josef Čermák: IVAN PASSER, THE STORYTELLER OF DIVERSITIES
Jiří Voráč: IVAN PASSER, THE STORYTELLER OF DIVERSITIES
This is an excellent book about an unusul man. Passer's well-to-do family was persecuted first by the Nazi and then by the communists. Ivan Passer himself was expelled from practically every school he attended in Czechoslovakia, which he left after the invasion by the Warsaw-Pact countries in August 1968, settling first in New York, before moving to California in 1979. His life is well documented in Voráč's book by lengthy interviews with Passer himself but also Passer's sister, Eva Límanová-Passerová, and Passer's friends.
The book is divided into three parts, the first featuring historical-critical studies of Passer's films, the second, a biographical section and the third presenting accompanying documents.
In the first part, Voráč organizes Passer's filmmaking activities into several periods: the Czech period of the sixties, the New York period of the seventies, the California period of the eighties, the television and Nomad period of the nineties of the last century and the first years of this century.
Passer started to work in the film industry in the late fifties as assistant-director for Ladislav Helge and in early sixties for Vojtěch Jasný, who called Passer "the best asistant-director I ever had." He also worked closely - as a screenwriter or assistant- director with Miloš Forman on all Forman's Czech films, making his own directorial debut with Intimate Lighting in 1965. The film (obviously highly valued by Voráč) was enthusiatically received by critics both in Czechoslovakia (where it was nominated for the top award) and, later, in the Western Europe (the critic of the French publication, Arts, wrote: "Who does not like Intimate Lighting, is no friend of mine"), as well as in the United States ( Time included it - together with Forman's Loves of a Blonde - among the four best films at the 1966 New York film festival and commented that the film is "a brilliant example of the supreme art of unforced comic invention"). Much less admired were Passer's first films produced in New York, Born to Win and Law and disorder, films about drugs and violence and Ace Up My Sleeve (which Jiří Voráč sees "noteworthy for the malicious playfulness with which it subjects the mechanism of the market to a surrealist logic that turns everything into absurdity") and Silver Bears, both international co-productions with Omar Shariff and Michael Caine.
And then came Cuttter's Way, his first film made in California (in 1981), Passer's highest acclaimed American film, about a Vietnam veteran, who lost an eye, an arm and a leg and ends his life with a suicidal act. First, the critics were undecided but eventually greeted it with applause. Film Quarterly described Cutter's Way as "a deeply disquieting film about friendship, morale and moral cowardice, truth and its shades" and the critic in Le Monde described it as "the most original, daring and the most anticomformist film, coming to us this season from the USA."
Probably Passer's first experience in television work was his production of The Nightingale (1983), based on Hans Christian Andersen fairytale with Mick Jagger in the role of the Chinese emperor. In the year 2000 Passer completed two television projects: The Wishing Tree (which although localized in Savannah in Georgia, was shot - because of lower costs - in Toronto) and Picnic, based on William Inge's play of the same name. But the by far most important Passer's work of this period is the docudrama Stalin, a ten-million international project (American, German and Russian partnership) with Robert Duvall - in Passer's view the greatest living actor - in the title role. This is how Voráč sees Passer's Stalin:" Stalin emerges here as a sadistic, paranoid and sentimental person, who systematically and mercilessly liquidates whole strata of society, political allies as well as rivals and even his own closest family and throws tens of millions of victims on the altar of the red revolution."
This is a remarkable book packed with riches of information, including an English summary of the book, which I obviously could not hope even to mention. So I would like to end with two views of Passer, quoted by Jiří Voráč. Ivan Passer's sister, Eva: " He is perhaps the only man I know, apart from our father, who keeps his humour and his 'faith in humanity' even in the most difficult moments of life". And his screenwriter ( Born to win), David Scott Milton: "He is an unbelievably warm and sensitive man... I know only a few people, who know the map, contours and esential part of the human soul as well as Ivan."
Poprvé publikováno v Pozitivních novinách 07. 02. 2009
JUDr. Josef Čermák
OSOBNOSTI POZITIVNÍCH NOVIN