Judge Joel Pearce urges you not to ponder the title's inherent paradox. Just laugh and nod instead.
A comedy for the aged.
Autumn Spring was the last film in which Vlastimil Brodský performed before he passed away in 2002. This is poignant but fitting, as it is a comedy about a man nearing the end of his life who chooses to enjoy each minute he is given, instead of giving in to the fear of death that surrounds him.
Facts of the Case
Frantisek Hána (Vlastimil Brodský, Jakob the Liar) is an irresponsible but kindhearted man in his late 70s. He spends much of his time with his buddy Eduard (Stanislav Zindulka). Together they pull off elaborate pranks, pretending to be wealthy and influential men, rather than the retired actors that they are. Frantisek's wife Emílie(Stella Zázvorková) is too busy planning their inevitable funerals to appreciate her husband's playful nature, and she is quickly tiring of his antics. Meanwhile, Frantisek's son is doing all he can to move his parents into a home so that he can move into their apartment. All of this comes to a head when one of Frantisek's pranks backfires, and he is forced to take drastic measures to keep his life from falling apart.
While it is not for everyone, Autumn Spring is a delightful film that handles the issues of old age and death as well as any movie I have ever seen. Its tone is sometimes whimsical and sometimes sad, but it juggles both of these tones with ease, never feeling manipulative and always hitting the right notes.
At the beginning of the film, the pranks that Frantisek and Eduard play are quite funny. It is clear that they are bored and mischievous, but kindhearted enough that they would never do any serious harm with their games. When things go badly and their pranks become a necessity to get the pair out of trouble, however, there is an incredible sadness present that changes everything. These men are not young anymore, and the only things they have to live for are dreams of a life they wish they could have had.
While it is comically played, there is something devastating about the way Emílie feels trapped into focusing all of her resources into her own funeral plans. This is not only a statement on materialism but also on the death industry, which makes her feel guilty for not being able to afford an opulent funeral. When she visits the cemetery, it is as if she is looking around to plan for her next car or house purchase, making sure she keeps up with her neighbors.
Vlastimil Brodský does a fantastic job of carrying Autumn Spring. The personas that he adopts during his pranks are all believable, and even though some of the things he does are foolish, it is impossible to hold a grudge against such a likeable rascal. For the short time that he tries to give up his irresponsible ways, he gradually becomes an old man that we all recognize…a man with no reasons left to live, waiting to die.
The other performances are excellent as well. Stella Zázvorková is excellent as an embittered old woman who slowly comes to remember what drew her to Frantisek in the first place. Stanislav Zindulka adds both humor and pathos as a loyal friend who clings to the dreams that Frantisek gives him, even when his health keeps him away from the carefree life that he loves.
First Look Pictures has provided the film on a passable but unimpressive disc. The video lacks some detail because it is non-anamorphic, but the colors are accurate and there are no signs of digital flaws. The English subtitles are burnt in, but they are easy to read and they have only a couple of obvious errors.
The sound is perfectly acceptable as well. It's a very basic Dolby 2.0 stereo track, the music is mixed well and the dialogue is always clear. The sound design does not demand use of the surrounds and the sub, and I didn't find they were missed.
The sole extras on the disc are the theatrical trailers for Autumn Spring, Fellini: I'm a Born Liar, and The Navigators.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There are times when Autumn Spring feels somewhat slow. I would not call it a boring film, but audiences used to the quick pace of American comedies may find it requires a very different mindset to watch. Also, a few of the subplots involving characters of a younger generation are not explored as deeply as they should be. They feel incomplete and do not blend well with the rest of the film. These are minor complaints, though, as the film did not only provide me with some laughs, but made me feel genuinely good afterwards.
Considering that Autumn Spring is the last film of a great actor like Vlastimil Brodský, this disc would have been the perfect opportunity to honor his memory in some way. Interviews, information on some of his other films, or a retrospective documentary would have been welcome and meaningful additions.
Autumn Spring is a touching film that has a lot to say about old age and death. While I don't recommend the disc as a purchase for everyone, it would definitely be worth a rental, especially for fans of European films and lighthearted comedy. It is a perfect elegy for the late Mr. BrodskŅ, and it stands as a reminder to enjoy the time that we have been given on this earth.
All involved are free to go. This is a fine film, and life is too short to spend it on such trivial lawsuits.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Look Pictures
• Theatrical Trailers
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