Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Movies on a jet

I have unearthed a wonderful invention when travelling cross-country on a jet: the portable DVD player! This marvelous new invention of technology turned a 3 and 1/2 hour flight into something that seemed to last about 45 minutes. And forget about being panic stricken by the bounce of turbulence—with headphones on and lost in the 9” screen, I didn’t notice a thing. Babies screaming awful sounds and other cabin noise bother you? That’s also lost on the viewer. Has anyone else discovered this incredible way to travel through the air? It’s a miracle I tell you.

As a parting gift to myself from Seattle and Scarecrow Video I rented two shortish films from one of my all-time favorite directors—Milos Forman—Black Peter and The Fireman’s Ball.

Black Peter (1963) is Forman’s first film and I’d never seen it but it wasn’t long before I was enjoying this low-key comedy about the confusions of youth as Peter heads to adulthood. Peter sort of glides along in a job he doesn’t like, wooing a girl he does like and has to sit through his dad ranting, raving and imparting wisdom from the apartment kitchen. I hate to be lectured but I loved listening to Peter’s dad pace back and forth unleashing these rants. Black Peter is a smart little film from Forman and just hints at things to come from him in the future.

I love Forman’s 1967 satire The Fireman’s Ball and have seen it twice before but decided to watch it again. This has one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever seen in the raucous attempt by the brigade to hold a beauty contest. The contest turns into absolute bedlam. As the scene approached I was curious if I’d find it humorous in this jet setting but suddenly found myself laughing hysterically and wondering if those around me thought I’d lost it. Didn’t care, I just kept laughing.

What amazes me about The Fireman’s Ball is the cast. This picture has the most amazing collection of faces and personalities in such a short (only 73 minutes) and intimate movie. Every single one of these actors is dead-on perfect as bumbling, dimwitted firemen who are clueless in pretty much all they do.

I love satire and this one got the movie banned from Soviet controlled Czech lands and sent Forman out of the country to make movies (which was good for us but I wonder what kind of films he’d made had he stayed home). There are subtle jabs and more pointed ones at anyone in authority during this era in Czech history. I love The Fireman’s Ball and it’s going in my Top 100 next time I update it. Highly recommended, as is the portable DVD player when travelling on jet planes.

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