Director: Milos Forman
Starring: Jan Vostrcil, Stanislav Holubec, Frantisek Svet
Duration: 71 min.
The story chronicles a firemen’s ball where nothing goes right—from a beauty pageant whose reluctant participants embarrass the organizers, to a lottery from which nearly all the prizes are pilfered.
The Firemen's Ball is a film directed by Milos Forman. It was his first color film and the last one he made in his home country before fleeing to The United States. It was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 41st Academy Awards, making it a remarkable fourth year in a row for an entry from Czechoslovakia to be honored.
Based on a real small town firemen's ball that Forman and screenwriters Ivan Passer and Jaroslav Papousek attended, and much like Forman's previous efforts, this is a hilarious comedy using non-professional actors based on brilliant satirical observations of human behavior.
The local fire department is throwing their annual ball where they decide to honor their 86 year old former chairman with a special gift. They also plan to hold a raffle and a beauty contest in which the winner will get to present the chairman with his gift.
What follows is a series of events, plagued by disorganization, mishaps, and failure that progress from bad to outright tragic. The clumsy committee members bumble and stumble around the firehall, trying desperately to convince the town's slim pickings of eligible but reluctant females to enter the beauty pageant. All the while, the lottery prizes disappear one by one from the supposedly guarded prize table. Then a fire breaks out in a nearby home while the whole town is partying. It's all so sad that you have to laugh.
It lacks perhaps the same level of youthful zest and charm as seen in Loves of a Blonde or Black Peter, but it is still full of that wonderful Czech humor that translates so amazingly well; and cleverly biting insight that truly stands the test of time.
— Bonjour Tristesse