Milos Forman's film finally takes off

'Taking Off'

On Wednesday night Milos Forman's film, "Taking Off" premiered in the Czech Republic, no less than 35 years after it was made. Milos Forman was one of the pioneers of the Czech new wave in cinema in the 1960s. Following the Soviet invasion in 1968, he emigrated to America where he launched a successful career with films One Flew over a Cuckoo's Nest, Hair, the People vs Larry Flint and more recently Man on the Moon. His first American film, Taking Off was banned in the former Czechoslovakia and it was not until this week that it had its first official screening in the country of Forman's birth. The screening was part of a larger cultural event called Project 100. Nikola Brabenec spoke to one of the organizers, Ivo Andrle at the event.

'Taking Off'
"When the project started eleven years ago, the main goal was to bring good quality movies into Czech theatres. When we look at the situation eleven years ago, there were pretty much no European or Art House movies in distribution at all. We started purchasing ten movies that we believed to be good quality movies every year and we released them all together in one day, so that they could travel as a collection around the country in various cinemas."

"We started with some twenty-eight cinemas in 1994 and now a hundred and ten cinemas in the Czech Republic participate in this project. Originally, we only planned to do the project for ten years as it is called Project 100 because in ten years we wanted to bring a hundred movies but last year we made a decision to go ahead and keep bringing movies to Czech cinemas. We believe there are new and new generations growing up that should and would like to see them."

The premiere was a festive event with an enthusiastic audience, special guests and Moravian wine. Rumour had it that perhaps Milos Forman would be making a surprise visit. Although he was not able to appear in the flesh, he did send a greeting via video.

"Good day! I am glad that you came to watch the film today, I really like it, not for artistic reasons or anything- it was my first English film and I wanted to make it the same way we made films in Czechoslovakia- we would look around, see what's happening and put together a story from that. I am proud that in this film Tina Turner first appeared on screen, and Carly Simon and Cathy Bates, well, what should I tell you, if possible, enjoy yourselves."

'Taking Off'
The film itself was a bittersweet comedy set in the 1970's about the generational gap between 15 year old Jeannie and her suburban parents. When Jeannie runs away, her parents set out to find her and go through a series of bizarre and hilarious experiences. The scene that really had the audience laughing, is when her parents along with the parents of other fugitive children, decide to smoke marijuana in order to understand their children better. Vincent Schiavelli plays the marijuana smoking instructor, leading the suburban parents through experience as though he were teaching them to operate a dishwasher.

Although it has taken 35 years for the film to debut in Forman's country of origin, the themes were not dated and the delay did not seem to dampen the audience's enthusiasm:

"I liked it very much, I thought it was a fun film, I liked its playfulness, it was very easy to digest, even though it is not just an easy going film, there is something to it."

" I have never seen, "Taking Off." It was the only film by Forman that I had not seen. So I just wanted to catch up and it was wonderful, I really enjoyed it."