Booze and Czechs

The movie the Czech government didn't want you to see . . . ever.

You don't need a Ph.D. in European History to enjoy The Firemen's Ball, Milos Forman's hilarious 1967 political satire targeted at incompetent Czech leadership. Ostensibly about a group of bumbling volunteer firemen in a small town, it was the last film the legendary director ever made in his native Czechoslovakia, and it was "banned for life" by officials for its unflattering portrayal of the government.Dark humor reigns over each disastrous escapade in the film, thanks to the dim-witted firemen and their ability to turn any small task into a comedy of errors: Donated lottery items are surreptiously stolen from a table by partygoers over the course of the night, until nothing is left for the lucky winners. The welcome banner for the firemen's ball is destroyed by — you guessed it — fire. Pervy committee members try to organize a beauty pageant, only to be rejected by the girls, none of whom want the honor. And while everyone parties with the hardworking volunteers, an old man's house burns down in the village, as waiters serve beer and wine to revelers watching the inferno. Who knew Czech politics could be so damn funny? The Firemen's Ball screens tonight at 8:55 p.m. and Sunday, April 27, at 4:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Cinematheque, 11141 East Boulevard. Tickets are $6 to $8. Call 216-421-7450 or visit
Thu., April 24, 8:55 p.m.; Sun., April 27, 4:30 p.m., 2008