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