Film - Feature | December 23 | 4-5:15 p.m. | Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Its winter in a small mountain town in Czechoslovakia, and time for the Firemens Ball, an annual comedy of errors to which the firemen, mostly elderly, look forward with delight, especially at the prospect of the inevitable beauty-queen contest. Raymond Durgnat writes, Before Milos Forman turned his beady, quizzical eye on the follies and frailties of the American scene, he had trained it on his fellow-countrymen, and in The Firemens Ball his style is already in its full maturity. Of course its typically Czech. Its a study in bureaucratic bumblings (what film from the land of Kafka isnt?) and its Mystery of the Missing Head-Cheese had the Czech authorities scratching their pates with profound suspicion of a hidden meaning. But it proves once again the old Ealing adage, that a local comedy can become international so long as theres enough feeling for the human beings caught in the paradoxes of their local customs. This is a poignant, hilarious movie in a rare genre, a tragicomedy of old age. . . . And perhaps its so gentle and so tough because, though Forman allows himself no sentimentality and never lets his firemen off the hook, theres always that quiet, gentle feeling that father figures never die, they only fade away.
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