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AUTUMN SPRING

SYNOPSIS:
Fanda (Vlastimil Brodsky) is a terminal prankster who refuses to grow up. Despite pleas from his exasperated wife Emilie (Stella Zazvorkova) and son Jara (Ondrej Vetchy), who want him to make some serious decisions about the future, Fanda ignores them and spends his days looking for amusement and adventure with his lifelong friend Eda (Stanislav Zindulka).

Review by Louise Keller:
With its uplifting moral to stay young at heart, Autumn Spring is a bittersweet charmer about rogues, relationships and growing old. Just as the protagonist in Big Fish kept his dreams alive by exaggerating events and situations, 76 year old Fanda lives his fantasies by putting his own spin on reality.

The tone of the film is as emotionally diverse as the seasons, and director Vladimír Michálek expertly guides us through a smorgasbord of humour and pathos devoid of sentimentality or predictability. Jirí Hubac's succinct script is a glossy, sugar-coated pill that entices, amuses and entertains, ensuring full impact with a pungent inner-core.

It's a film of marvellous performances, and a triumph for Vlastimil Brodský, for whom the role of Fanda was especially written. (Brodský committed suicide shortly after completion of the film due to ill health, making the film's themes even more pertinent.) The three central performances are indeed wonderful, and the close friendship between Brodský and Stella Zazvorkova as his on-screen wife resonates as being both touching and truthful.

When we first meet Brodský's Fanda with his close friend and former theatre colleague Eda (Zindulka), they are skilfully and playfully leading the life of con men. They are lovable rogues, living the life of their dreams. One minute shopping for a mansion in the guise of a retired opera star, the next masquerading as a Prague subway ticket inspector, Fanda thrives on living for the moment. But he is a total paradox, going from artfully working a con to allowing himself to be conned. 'You were great today,' says Eda, as the two men farewell each other in the underground after a convincing performance as a wealthy investor. 'I got carried away,' replies Fanda, 'I nearly believed it myself.'

Herein lies the whole essence of the film: living life as you see yourself. Fanda is brought back to earth with a harsh jolt by his self-confessed stick-in-the-mud wife Emilie, who is intent on planning for their funerals and making sacrifices for their thrice married son and grandchildren. Fanda and Emilie have been married for 44 years and bicker endlessly about everything. From smoking cigarettes to squandering the money son Jara has given them for a burial plot, Emilie is unforgiving about everything. Why can't he responsibly act his age and stop playing games? Surely, it is their duty to move into an old-folks' home so Jara's ex-wife and children can life in their apartment? She even callously throws away Fanda's gift of her favourite gerberas.

Often tough to watch, because of its naked honesty, the husband -wife relationship cuts through the superficial, and is portrayed with no holds barred. There's bitterness, anger, resentment and ultimately understanding. Fanda and Emilie may be opposites, but love is a curious and wonderful thing.

It's the pathos in this touching film that gives it its bite, as we explore the relationships between Fanda, his wife and best friend. With its themes of vitality and old age, Michálek emotionally takes us from elation to devastation. 'Old age is sad; we should die young,' agree Fanda and Era. As the seasons change, we watch Fanda lose the skip in his step, going from vitally exuberant to despondent and old. But not for long.

Uplifting, funny and truthful, Autumn Spring is as surprising as life itself, with a plot that dares to take us where we cannot even suspect.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

AUTUMN SPRING (M15+)
(Czech, 2001)

Babí léto

CAST: Vlastimil Brodský, Stella Zázvorková, Stanislav Zindulka, Ondrej Vetchý, Petra Spalková, Jirí Lábus

PRODUCER: Jirí Bartoska, Jaroslav Boucek, Jaroslav Kucera

DIRECTOR: Vladimír Michálek

SCRIPT: Jirí Hubac

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Martin Strba

EDITOR: Jirí Brozek

MUSIC: Michal Lorenc

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jirí Sternwald

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sharmill

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 22, 2004







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