Before he achieved widespread acclaim in the US for the likes of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Amadeus (1984), Forman was one of the leading figures of the Czech New Wave of the 1960s, of which his 1967 film The Fireman’s Ball remains perhaps the defining example. Banned for many years in his home country, it was a biting satire on Communism set in the town hall of a provincial community, and a deadpan coruscation of a regime that ultimately led to him pursuing his filmmaking career overseas.
His first US production, Taking Off (1971) harked back to his very first feature, the documentary Audition (1964), similarly charting an open singing competition, this time in NYC. Jeannie (one-time player, Linnea Heacock) has run away from home to attend the audition, with the film following her parents’ attempts to find her.
With the help of a ‘Society for the Parents of Missing Children’, the grown-ups begin to embrace their newfound freedom in their kids’ absence, helped along by a class aimed at understanding the attraction of marijuana (“Pass the joint on. Do not hold onto it. That is called Bogarting, and it is very rude.”). Often brilliantly funny, Taking Off remains something of a product of its time, if mostly due to its extended musical interludes from the likes of Carly Simon, Ike and Tina Turner, and a young Kathy Bates (going by the name Bobo Bates!). (BFI)