Classifying Czech melodrama: Mrs. Morality sweeps through the protectorate

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© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. In 1998, the Czech National Film Archive (Národní filmový archive/NFA) classified sixty-seven feature-length fiction films produced between 1930 and 1945 as generic melodramas in their volumes of Czech Feature Film (Český hraný film). This essay considers how this retrospective genre classification offers entry into understanding melodrama’s aesthetic and cultural operations in Czech cinema. The focus is less on how the NFA defined the genre, than how these volumes, in bringing melodrama into critical view, reveal important assumptions about its cultural and historical affiliations with foreign co-productions. Starting by outlining some of the problems presented by the volumes of Czech Feature Film, this essay highlights some key questions that emerge in studying the complicated relationship between Czech and German popular film genres. In particular, it focuses on melodrama’s relationship to films made during the Nazi occupation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, when films were necessarily co-produced with the Nazified film industry. Through a close reading and reception study of Saturday (Sobota, Václav Wasserman, 1945) this essay considers how the perception of melodrama films as light entertainment during the Nazi occupation provided yet another opportunity for these films on Czechoslovak state television during the post-1968 period of normalization.

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Studies in Eastern European Cinema

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