Jan Saudek: Trapped by his passions, no hope for rescue

25 11 2008

Tuesday, November 25th in HCL 7

6:00 PM to 7:30 PM – Jan Saudek

The full-length documentary film Jan Saudek provides a personally truthful yet harsh life story of a hero and dropout. It is presented as a grand drama, not just full of stirring, colorful photographs, but also provocative ideas, illusions and ideals. Jan Saudek became a world-renowned photographer, winning international awards and being exhibited abroad, long before he had gained recognition in his native country. He is a man who appears in many roles before the camera, often changing them, often surprising, and often shocking. However, even the most versatile illusionist is incapable of entirely hiding in the face of three cameramen in action under the supervision of a director.

With its creative approach, this documentary does not claim to adhere to the textbook forms of the genre. It tries to handle it freely, in order to portray and interpret the complete complexity of the artist’s personality. Each of the three interconnected plotlines tells the story of another world. The one in color refers to the films, clean and seemingly realistic, recounting and presenting factual information. The black-and-white film is concerned with the inner self of the photographer, which is why the camera never meets him face-to-face. And the raw documentary camera in the hands of the director himself maps out the intimate moments where no film-maker has so far been permitted to tread; the moments when Jan Saudek experiences his intellectual, sensual and sexually rich “orgies”. Likewise, though, he witnesses the genuine sentiments, true happiness and genuine loneliness of a genius.

Filmmaker and director Adolf Zika relies heavily upon his personal acquaintance with the portrayed photographer, but in spite of the fact that he greatly venerates him, the narration is far from being oversimplified in presenting the truths about this controversial master of photography. Along with the viewer, he attempts to look behind the artist’s mask, even at the price of a painful revelation – to get to the very core of these „truths“.

In some passages of the documentary, there are certain shots and scenes which might be considered as beyond the limitations of the ethics and morality of today’s society. However, this is not the case of the first Czech pornographic film, but of the greatest love story of recent years. He has contended with war, suffering, the loss of his dearest offset by blind love, dreams of a family and the intangible glory of fame. Poverty, condemnation and lack of appreciation are counterbalanced by wealth, hypocritical recognition and the freedom to reach the high heavens in an unstoppable aging process. This and much more which has gone unmentioned and ineffable is portrayed in this riveting documentary film about the life and work of the most famous living Czech photographer, Jan Saudek.

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