Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Firemen's Ball (1967)

The Firemen's Ball • Horí, má panenko (1967)
The Firemen's Ball • Horí, má panenko (1967)

Czech New Wave
Genre: Comedy
Director: Milos Forman
Starring: Jan Vostrcil, Stanislav Holubec, Frantisek Svet
Language: Czech
Duration: 71 min.
Rating: 7.8  

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

The Firemen's Ball • Horí, má panenko (1967)

The Firemen's Ball • Horí, má panenko (1967)

The Firemen's Ball • Horí, má panenko (1967)

The Firemen's Ball • Horí, má panenko (1967)

The Firemen's Ball • Horí, má panenko (1967)

The Firemen's Ball • Horí, má panenko (1967)

The Firemen's Ball • Horí, má panenko (1967)

The Firemen's Ball • Horí, má panenko (1967)


Christine said...

Looks like another great Czech film (loved Daisies, by the way).  

Sam Fragoso said...

I'm down for anything Milos Forman does.

Great write up. Criterion keeps on discovering these interesting endeavors.

Michaël Parent said...

I have to discover those early Forman films. Not being a fan of his major hit, might be the reason why I missed his first films.

d_4 said...

I think this will be fun. I'm not expecting too much, just some smiles.

Lisa Thatcher said...

Great review!  This was so funny... I had a great time with this. That beauty pageant is hilarious and the disappearing prizes, and the poor honoree left alone at his own speech.   The comedy really stands the test of time here.  Another great Czech film!
(Oh - and the poor man forced to stand closer to his burning house to 'warm up')

Eric said...

That Criterion cover is pretty great, and the movie sounds like good fun. I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

 Awesome! I'm so glad you watched it.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Me too, he is one of the greatest directors of all time. He just has a way with actors and non-actors alike.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

These early works co-written by Passer and Papousek are nothing like his later English films you should at least give this one and Loves of a Blonde a chance.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

 Yeah that bit moving him closer to the fire was genius. So funny.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yes, they do come up with some amazing covers, that's one of my favorite things about Criterion.

Jandy said...

I'm really looking forward to checking this out before too long. I loved Loves of a Blonde and I even enjoy his American films. Ivan Passer is a good influence, too. Have you gotten to Intimate Lighting yet, or did I miss it? It is in your list, isn't it?

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yes, Intimate Lighting is an amazing film. I'm a bit sad that Passer was never able to duplicate it's success. But if you are a fan of his writing, then I'm sure you will enjoy this.

Danny said...

The film is a pretty wonderful send-up of the Czech government. Not something I loved, but a pleasant film. 

sjhoneywell said...

I had a strange reaction to this film. I liked it, but I didn't find it laugh-out-loud funny. I got the feeling that had I watched this years ago, I might have liked it more than I did, when it felt more politically and culturally relevant.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yeah this is a very common theme for films of this era, some of them are more subtle than others., but it makes for some interesting and enjoyable watches.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I think there is something about people in charge bumbling things badly that is always going to be relevant. But I can see how this would seem a bit dated.

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