Film-Forward Review: [AUTUMN SPRING]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Vlastimil Brodsky as Fanda

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Directed by: Vladimír Michálek.
Produced by: Jaroslav Kucera, Jirí Bartoska & Jaroslav Boucek.
Written by: Jirí Hubac.
Director of Photography: Martin Strba.
Edited by: Jirí Brozek.
Music by: Michal Lorenc.
Released by: First Look.
Country of Origin: Czech Republic. 97 min. Rated: PG-13.
With: Vlastimil Brodsky, Stella Zázvorková & Stanislav Zindulka.
DVD Special Features: Trailers. English Subtitles.

A Mercedes comes to a stop in front of a palatial mansion. A gray-haired man, with ascot and cane, steps out to inspect the estate. His assistant introduces the gentleman to the real estate agent as an emeritus from the Metropolitan Opera. He is, in fact, Fanda (Brodsky, Closely Watched Trains), a 76-year-old retired member of a chorus who, late in life, is grabbing the spotlight by assuming another persona. His sidekick and co-star in his many adventures is Ed (Zindulka), also a former chorus member. Fanda faces old age kicking and screaming while his wife of 44 years, the practical and scolding Emílie (Zázvorková), has already written her death notice and hoarded money for her funeral. When one of his pranks backfires, itís literally the final nail in the coffin for her--she has already bought a gold-plated casket. Thankfully, the film acknowledges that Fandaís seemingly harmless pranks actually do come with a price. Brodsky is charming, yet his determination to live his life his way prevents the role and the film from becoming condescendingly cloying. His straightforward, take-it-or-leave-it portrayal never begs to be liked. He is a flawed character--he even takes his neighborís newspaper and eventually return it, only after completing the crossword puzzle. Fanda is the refreshing antithesis to Umberto D.ís aging pensioner, whose best friend is his dog, or Harry and Tontoís lonely widower, whose sidekick is a cat. Even as the theme of death hovers in the background, the tone, aided by the bright cinematography, is much more hopeful than the bleak outlook of these other two films. And Emílieís anger also keeps the film firmly on the ground. By the time of Autumn Springís bittersweet ending, any sentimentality has been earned. KT
August 22, 2003


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