September 29, 2012, 1:00 PM
The National Gallery of Art will explore Forman's Czech works in a special afternoon showcasing The Firemen's Ball (Hoří, má panenko) on September 29 at 1 pm, followed by Black Peter (Černý Petr) at 3 pm, and Loves of a Blonde (Lásky jedné plavovlásky), at 4:45 pm at the Gallery's East Building Auditorium. Before coming to the United States, Miloš Forman received international acclaim as one of the leaders of the Czech New Wave, a movement that featured some of the most attractive films produced in Europe at that time.
The Fireman's Ball
A provincial fire department's annual ball erupts in mayhem—raffle prizes are pilfered, the beauty pageant goes awry, the contestants' carousing fathers drink too much—and outside in the town, a house burns down. For a humorously unassuming political allegory, The Fireman's Ball suffered one of the most unusual fates in film history. Not only was the president of Czechoslovakia outraged by its satirical tone, but thousands of volunteer firemen threatened to strike after it opened. Ultimately, the film was banned. (DIR. Miloš Forman, Horí, má panenko, 1967, 71 min., Czech with English subtitles)
Forman's first full feature was filmed in a small town with a nonprofessional cast who improvised much of their dialogue. Inspired by the vérité approach of Italian neorealism, Black Peter centers on a shy but sympathetic young store clerk who, assigned to apprehend shoplifters, lacks the nerve to confront anyone. Its warmth, ironic humor, and realism were a hit with viewers and, though criticized by the regime, the film was selected as the best picture of 1963 by Czech film critics. (DIR. Miloš Forman, Cerný Petr, 1963, 85 min., Czech with English subtitles)
Loves of a Blonde
Another critical success for Forman was Loves of a Blonde, a tender story of a naive factory worker who has a one-night stand with a musician from Prague and then follows him home. "Forman's humor comes from the fact that his characters peer out at the world like timid nocturnal animals, always prepared to defend themselves against attack but constantly having the ground cut from under their feet by the discovery that people are never quite what they seem"—Tom Milne. (DIR. Miloš Forman, Lásky jedné plavovlásky, 1965, 83 min., Czech with English subtitles)
National Gallery of Art
East Building Concourse, Auditorium
4th and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20565
Admission is free | Reservations are not required.
Photo courtesy of the National Film Archive (NFA) in Prague