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Two Subversive East European Comedies

Sunday, October 14, 1979
7:00 p.m.
9:55 p.m.
The Fireman’s Ball
Milos Forman (Czechoslovakia,1968)

“Milos Forman is best known now for Taking Off and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But before he 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 Fireman’s Ball his style is already in its full maturity. Of course it’s ‘typically Czech.’ It’s a study in bureaucratic bumblings (what film from the land of Kafka isn’t?) 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 there’s 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 accordingly it’s difficult to find anything to compare it to.... And perhaps it’s so gentle and so tough because though Forman allows himself no sentimentality and never lets his firemen off the hook, there’s always that quiet gentle feeling that father-figures never die, they only fade away.”

—Raymond Durgnat

• Directed by Milos Forman. Screenplay by Milos Forman, Ivan Passer and Jaroslav Papousek. (1968, 73 mins, 35mm, color, English titles, Print from Cinema 5)