Here’s something amazing: nearly fifty years after his death, Czech animation master Jiri Trnka will finally receive his first complete U.S. retrospective in a touring theatrical show that starts later this month in New York City.

The trailer for the screening series, titled “The Puppet Master: The Complete Jiri Trnka,” debuts exclusively on Cartoon Brew:

The screening series will present all 24 of Trnka’s films — 18 shorts and six animated features. Among those films, there are 11 newly translated works, and the U.S. premieres of two new digital restorations: Trnka’s Venice Film Festival prize-winning first feature The Czech Year and Old Czech Legends, a collection of Bohemian myths.

More from the organizers:

The lineup also features Trnka’s Shakespeare adaptation A Midsummer Night’s Dream, narrated by Richard Burton; his subversive, absurdist, anti-authoritarian trilogy The Good Soldier Svejk; and three distinct shorts programs featuring the filmmaker’s unique early work in hand-drawn cartoons (including Cannes Film Festival prize-winning The Animals and the Brigands), his magical family-friendly works, and his later, more formally and politically defiant films (featuring his final masterpiece, The Hand, about the plight of artists toiling under the restrictions of a totalitarian government).

Also included is a two-program sidebar dedicated to Jiri Brdecka, a screenwriter and animation director whose close friendship with Trnka occasioned a number of short- and feature-film collaborations. 

Revered as the pioneer of a remarkable new genre of animation that utilized puppets, Trnka conveyed the drama and psychology of his characters through his figures’ body language, expressive lighting, and camera movement. The director’s approach to puppet film as a serious art form was borne out of the lively Czech puppet theater tradition, which helped preserve the language over centuries of Hapsburg rule when there were no Czech schools, theater, or books published in the language. Already a prolific artist, author, and beloved book illustrator in his country, Trnka made films that had enormous impact on the development of Czech animation, and he inspired the careers of generations of filmmakers and animators around the globe.

Jiri Trnka’s “The Hand.”

The retrospective, produced by Comeback Company, will debut at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in Manhattan from April 20-25. Tickets are on sale starting today.

Following its New York City launch, variations of the retrospective will screen at:

  • American Cinematheque (Los Angeles)
  • George Eastman Museum (Rochester, NY)
  • Cleveland Cinematheque/CIA (Cleveland, OH)
  • Harvard Film Archive (Cambridge, MA)
  • Lightbox Film Center (Philadelphia)
  • The Gene Siskel Film Center (Chicago)
  • The Cinematheque (Vancouver, Canada)
  • Cornell Cinema (Ithaca, NY)
  • Speed Art Museum (Louisville, KY)
  • Cinémathèque québécoise (Montreal, Canada)
  • additional cities to be announced
Jiri Trnka.

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