You can almost smell the cabbage in Milos Forman's The Firemen's Ball, a lovely little farce about a party for an 86-year-old fire marshall in a small Czech town. The problems center around a beauty contest, designed to pick the girl who will bestow an award to the elderly gentlemen -- only the girls aren't exactly supermodels, and then, once they've finally been selected, they're too afraid to go on stage. Other problems erupt (someone is stealing the prizes for the lottery), until the party is interrupted by -- of all things -- a fire.

This 73 minute film is practically a trifle, hardly a masterpiece but definitely the work of genius. Forman's social satire makes more sense in the context of 1967 Czechoslovakia, which had a government in crisis much like the firemen on parade in the film, on the eve of the country's invasion by Russia and imminent conversion to communism. The film was reportedly "banned forever" on the spot by the new regime. Apparently those Russkies were on to the movie, too...

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