Director: Milos Forman
Screenplay: Milos Forman, Jaroslav Papousek, Ivan Passer
Based on a Story by: Václav Sasek
Starring: Jan Vostrcil, Josef Sebánek, Josef Valnoha
Country: Czechoslovakia, Italy
Running Time: 71 min
BBFC Certificate: PG
I‘ve mentioned my love of Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film: An Odyssey on several occasions, even listing it as my favourite film of 2012. One of the joys I found in that documentary was discovering obscure or forgotten classics to add to my ever expanding ‘to watch’ list. So whenever I come across a title mentioned in the documentary I get excited. Milos Forman’s The Firemen’s Ball is one such film and the wonderful team over at Arrow have released it on dual format Blu-Ray and DVD, which of course meant I leapt at the chance of reviewing it for them.
Milos Forman is best known for the Hollywood classics One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus, as well as the 90’s biopics The People vs. Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon. However, he started his directing career in his native Czechoslovakia. His films made there were considered key titles in the country’s New Wave movement, particularly The Firemen’s Ball, which was his final Czech film before moving to the US.
Other than a brief expository opening scene, The Firemen’s Ball takes place during one evening’s celebrations in honour of the former president of a small town’s fire department. A group of ageing volunteer firemen host the event and their clumsy attempts to put on a good show, including an ill-fated beauty pageant, unfold before us in an ever escalating series of disasters.