The Firemen’s Ball (1967)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

Original title:  Hori, Ma Panenko

Czechoslovakia/Italy, 1967.  Carlo Ponti Cinematografica, Filmové studio Barrandov.  Story by , Screenplay by , , .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Small-town Czech firemen decide to host a ball in honour of their eighty-five year-old chairman, one in which they expect to pull off a lottery and a beauty contest. Sadly, things go wrong from the beginning as the lottery prizes start to go missing, the girls chosen for the pageant run for cover right before they’re expected to go onstage, and the firemen are required on a job when a nearby farmhouse catches on fire. From there the proceedings become a disaster of epic proportions in this short, hilarious comedy by Milos Forman, the last film he made before emigrating to the United States. While it contains a strong allegory of corrupt Communist leadership (hence why it was his last film in his homeland before leaving), the film works for those without any inkling of its political intonations, a gentle spoof of human vulnerability that is biting without ever being cruel. Released weeks before Prague Spring, the film was officially banned ‘forever’ following the Soviet invasion.

The Criterion Collection:  #145

Academy Award Nomination:  Best Foreign Language Film

Cannes Film Festival:  In Competition

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