Sunday, January 18, 2015

474. Hori, ma panenko/The Fireman's Ball (1967)

Running Time: 73 minutes
Directed By: Milos Forman
Written By: Milos Forman, Jaroslav Papousek, Ivan Passer, Vaclav Sasek
Main Cast: Jan Vostrcil, Josef Sebanek, Josef Valnoha, Frantisek Debelka, Josef Kolb


If everything goes as planned, this time tomorrow I'll only have 100 films left to watch before saying sayonara to THE BOOK. I've made some minor adjustments so that my wife can join me in finishing up, with Alien & Aliens on tap for tonight and Shane & Memories of Underdevelopment lined up for tomorrow morning/early afternoon. Anyway, let's tackle the business at hand first and have a chat about The Fireman's Ball - Milos Forman's last film in his native Czechoslovakia before coming to Hollywood.

As you may have guessed, the film is about a fireman's ball - being thrown by a group of fireman, as they toast the retiring chairman of the fire department, who also has cancer. The film opens with the firemen passing around the gift they've picked out for him - a small, replica fire axe - each one admiring it, expressing that they're sure he'll like it. From the get go, everything goes wrong starting with a small fire being lit by one of the group accidentally setting fire to a paper banner. From there, the guests begin to arrive, including the chairman and the festivities are underway. It becomes apparent that valuable food items that were intended to be raffled off are turning up missing. A man and his mother watch the table like hawks, but somehow miss it when something else goes missing - be it a chocolate ball, a bottle of cognac or head cheese. Meanwhile, three of the firemen organize a beauty contest that will consist of eight women. The three go around, trying hard to find the most beautiful eight who have attended the ball, but somehow end up getting pressured into including eight not so beautiful candidates. With a thief on the prowl and eight (not so) beauties being paraded around, a fire breaks out at the nearby home of an elderly man, but by this time all of the firemen are fairly drunk and incompetent at putting out a blaze. When the man's home burns to the ground, the firemen decide to donate the valuable food stuffs to the old man, but by this time, they've all been stolen.


I was looking forward to this one. Not only was it going to be a short and easy one to watch (which bodes well when one is due up by 5:00am), but it was directed by someone who's work I was already familiar with - Milos Forman. Let's not forget that it was Forman who directed one of my personal favorites in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and he also directed Amadeus, which I sweetened on when watching it for THE BOOK last year. So I was excited to see one of the film's that obviously put him on Hollywood's radar and see a film that would obviously be more close to the man's roots. However, I was really disappointed in this. It was supposed to be a comedy and there were certain moments that got maybe a grin out of me ("Mom, where the bottle of cognac?!) - but all in all, I barely laughed. I just didn't find the film that funny at all and even the ending, which I assume when the chairman opens the case and realizes that the axe has also been stolen, is supposed to be a big bust a gut moment, however I was simply not amused. Again, I plead culture clash. Is it possible that some of the jokiness of the film was lost in me because I just didn't get this brand of humor. Apparently the film is not only included because it's a good, Milos Forman comedy, but also because it has political ramifications too and was actually banned in Czechoslovakia for some time. Maybe I just wasn't in on the jokes, but I think most of the stuff just wasn't funny, meaning the film didn't stand the test of time. Old men ogling young girls, crawling around on the floor and trying to look up their dress, a man's house burning down and incompetent firemen unable to put it out because of too much sauce in their system - these things didn't tickle me and not because of they were low brow or anything, simply because I just didn't find them funny.

RATING: 4/10  I commend the effort and while I didn't laugh, the seventy-three minutes flew by and I tolerated this one pretty well, but anything more than a '4' would be overkill.


January 18, 2015  5:21pm


  1. Ah!
    Something worth getting a more interesting reply than of late.
    I actually quite liked this.. OK, no 'fall about laughing',
    moments, but wryly amusing and frequent dry smiles. Well, perhaps I will drop a point or two for the Oh so obvious gag where some of the prizes go missing, and "I will switch the lights of to let the person return them" reaction. But perhaps that was new joke in 60's Czechoslovakia....
    I'd go easily to 6...

    1. I think I just expected more. I wanted to like this early Forman and I really didn't. I have nothing against anyone liking this though, just not for me.


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