The Firemen's Ball - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Firemen's Ball Reviews

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flixsterman
Super Reviewer
April 4, 2012
Director Milos Forman's last film endeavor in his native Czechoslovakia is a comedy ripe with covert political satire, so much so that it almost cost him 10 years in a socialist prison.

A small town fire brigade is throwing a party to honor their retiring commissioner, complete with a dance, a prize lottery and a beauty contest. Murphy's Law applies and all that can go wrong does.

Whether it's intentional or not, Forman's film has a lot to say about the fallacy of social control committees and bureaus when they run counter to common sense and human nature. The Fireman's Ball is as courageous as it is funny. Four Stars.
April 4, 2012
a wild film full of interesting faces.
April 4, 2012
A very enjoyable and hilarious satire.
April 4, 2012
Very delightful comedy from Milos Forman. A brigade of utterly inept firemen attempt to host a ball, with hilarious results. Short but sweet.
April 4, 2012
Milos Forman's $65,000 black comedy, which clocks in just above one hour, takes place as small town firemen reckon on their festivity, are present at it, and endure it. They've arranged the titular ball in honor of their former chief, though it may be in the chief's eleventh hour. The beginning scene seems to promise an airy screwball comedy with lines like, "We should have given it to him last year, when he was 85 instead of now when he's about to die." As is made clear while the simple men theorize on the reasoning contrary to that observation that the antiquated fireman, diagnosed with cancer unbeknownst to himself, will be awarded a princely little fire ax in a velvet-padded box. Following this opening scene, a fireman balances carefully on a high ladder to carefully singe the sides of a paper banner until his ladder loses its footing, he is left dangling, and the poster bursts into flames. Beyond these actually quite underplayed scenes, the comic feel diminishes in consistency.

One scene which stands out is easily one of the funnier moments, but even still it could have been funnier: In the course of the ball, a local barn catches fire, and the firemen rush the rest of the town to the scene. But their truck getting stuck in the snow is much more pivotal and potentially funny than its execution here, as by the time they get there, the barn is overcome by an inferno. Nonetheless, there are laughs to be had at this point: The sullen farmer is staring longingly at his blazing barn, the firemen heed the suggestion that his chair be turned away from it, but the farmer simply turns his head to continue staring longingly at the barn. And when the farmer whines that he is cold, the firemen do the only thing they really can and move his chair closer to the fire.

The swelling to that scene consists of the firemen's struggle for a beauty pageant, with the queen deputized to bestow the ax. They fill a table with raffle prizes that are salivated over, as implied in a very restricted sense within the context of the film's time and place. So, the prizes begin to depart a bit too early from sight. The beauty pageant is a catastrophe of ignorance and disorganization, and not least owing to hardly any of the neighborhood girls, none of whom are beauties, have any desire to be involved.

Siding very much with the film itself concerning its treacherous political history, Forman is not scoffing at his characters, but at the system they populate. Frankly, I think the censors knew this when they condemned it as a damaging picture of Czech society, because that is the reactive approach in a fragile system that panics about criticism. Censors have always feigned the role of patriots, regarding any criticism as unpatriotic, when in effect criticism is a patriotic responsibility. Even now here in America, when the media is judged for disapproval, it most often merely signals that someone has had the nerve to probe the guiding principles of the party in power.

So, this presently obscure installment in the tremendous Criterion Collection appeals to me as a historical example, particularly with which to further open the elements of the Bush administration, and not so much for the film's content in and of itself. As a raucous comedy by Milos Forman, it today sponges no oomph from its hazardous time, as it clearly did then. And it is as a indirect topical commentary where this film gains momentum, and alas Forman cleverly for the sake of his film's spirit did not urge his political arguments, leaning back with a grin to let them make themselves, insinuating with poise from the histrionics.
April 4, 2012
This film cracked me up. From the beauty queen contest to someone stealing the head cheese. Milos Forman is so adept at what he does. It's great to see his earlier work.
April 4, 2012
Milos Forman directs this quaint little Czech film about a fireman's ball and everything that goes wrong. Quite funny. Quite funny.
April 4, 2012
Milos Forman directs this joyful skewering of the Communist leadership. The mood of the film is like a short story by Chekov (or the equivalent Czech author). There are moments of great humor and terrific sadness. I am always struck by the intimate emotions Forman is able to capture in his actors' performances. It is also interesting to realize this is the same director who made Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus.
April 4, 2012
czech, funny, beautiful :)
April 4, 2012
This fails as a comedy, but triumphs as a social/political criticism to the Czech Republic. It was pretty well made, but I wasn't too interested in the actual plot.
½ April 4, 2012
Great sense of humor
April 4, 2012
So. Damned. Funny. A meditation on dignity under communist authoritarism. With a first-rate beauty pageant besides.
April 4, 2012
Somebody said, a baby smiling: is it gas or has the kid reacted to what you've said and/or done? I choose the former for Forman's best film. Sure, exegesis awaits but the comedy is what persists and transcends, and that's more than enough to take away in a '67 Czech reel.
April 4, 2012
This is, as Pedro Almodóvar would say, a "screwball comedy," in which the local fire brigade tries to put together a ball, cum beauty pageant. An overt commentary on either the ability of Czechs to organize or more probably a covert commentary on the Communist government in place at the time.
April 4, 2012
The chaotic disorder of this absurd yet down to earth comedy reminded of the Pat & Mat animations that used to give me bad dreams as a child. Forman mercilessly mocks the pettiness and confusion of the people living under the rule of the Socialistic regime yet lured by the wonders of the West... no wonder he had to flee the country soon after.
April 4, 2012
These guys weren't professional actors, just Czechs in a small village. The guy trying to return the stolen headcheese is hilarious.
April 4, 2012
Romping parody by Forman that is allegorical of totalitarian communist rule in former Checkoslovakia.
April 4, 2012
Tremendously impressive allegory on state socialism. Very funny and very sad.
April 4, 2012
Heavy with the influence Jacques Tati, but not as successful. Czech dudes ogling pretty young things, carefully calibrated chaos, this has some beautiful. highly attentive choreography/composition and Criterion's transfer is, not surprisingly, gorgeous. Slight, though. Which I suppose is the point.
April 4, 2012
Milos Forman is a director who rocks.
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