When the local volunteer Fire department have a ball to celebrate their work and bring them closer to the public, the day should go off well. They are to have a beauty pageant, raffle and a dance to smooth things along. They also plan to present a ceremonial axe to an 85 year old fireman and chairman. He has cancer, which everyone but him knows about it. This will be his last chance to receive any recognition before he exits this life. The beauty contest proves difficult, as those chosen are less than happy to participate. They are either absently attending for the simple reason of boredom or they are being accompanied by a parent. The raffle is even more problematic, as the prizes keep getting stolen and often by the very people tasked to keep them. This is very difficult for the fireman to hide as they table is in full sight and the goods of lesser value are left over and stick out like sore thumbs… Then of course is the fireman themselves. They have to go out on call halfway through and leave the few still in the hall to all that booze and even more raffle prizes….
I always feel that the Czech New Wave was the most significant film movement in Europe after the French. It changed the natural course of film language when it explored the world of Eastern European communism. This however is only a very superficial reading of the films made and more so this film in general . It should be seen as the breaking away from the societal norms that had under pinned much of the post war. This film underlines the move away from male dominance, communist organisation and traditional dynamics. By casting the film with non actors in real settings and about everyday, we have a world of familiarity. But when you step back and see that the organisation is unorganised and inefficent. The male leaders serve no purpose and are not very useful. Then you see the event itself has no place in this society and it is actually the social tool of a empty ceremonial role. This is all underpinned by the great sardonic humor of Forman and the dry wit of his script. This and the total absence of any excessive laughs or set pieces…magical. I laughed until I cried at the opening and by the close, saw more than I expected.
Now the disc itself is a joy in many respects. The transfer has cleaned up the print and now it feels lighter. This adds to the deadpan humor. I am not sure it needed a 4k restoration but then who am I!!! The real gem on the disc bar the film is the new wave document about the unknown actors. The interviews are good and of the time. All in all a winner!
- New 4K restoration by the Czech National Film Archive
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original Czech soundtrack in uncompressed PCM mono audio
- Optional English subtitles
- Appreciation by Czech film expert David Sorfa
- Archival interviews with director Miloš Forman, cinematographer Miroslav Ond?í?ek and co-writer Ivan Passer
- New Wave Faces: Michael Brooke salutes the non-professional actors who made an indelible impression on 1960s Czech cinema