Autumn Spring | Something's Gotta Give

Autumn Spring | Something's Gotta Give

Some year’s end, with Hollywood serving up another round of high-gloss, $100-million epics, it’s nice to be able to turn to European movies. Not only for a change of scale, but also a different palate of emotions and ideas. Take the idea, for instance, that confronting old age-the waning of energies and options, the loss of a best friend-might form the basis of comedy, and that spry absurdity might be wrung from the themes of aging and grief. Welcome to the Central European sensibility and to Autumn Spring, Vladimir Michalek’s feisty and bittersweet comedy of life after seventy-five.

Autumn Spring, which opened in the United States a few months ago and is now available on DVD, begins with the visit of a wealthy retired conductor to the vast estate he’s viewing for prospective purchase in the Czech countryside. The maestro is distinctly unimpressed. “Very shabby,” he sniffs to his personal assistant, as the real estate agent frowns in dismay. Yet all is not exactly as it seems. For the maestro is an impostor. In truth, Fanda (Vlastimil Brodsky) is a retiree of modest means, and the would-be personal assistant is his best friend, Eda (Stanislav Zindulka). Touring mansions they can’t possibly afford to buy is a favorite con of theirs, one pulled just for kicks. A rascal, a scamp, Fanda lives by his devotion to the grand gesture. He’ll ride the train without a ticket, then, when caught, cordially pay the fine-and...

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About the Author

Rand Richards Cooper is Commonweal's contributing editor.