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Saturday, November 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 50.0° F  Overcast
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Autumn Spring
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Having buried both of my parents in recent years, I was particularly susceptible to Czech director Vladimir Michalek's Autumn Spring, which concerns itself with that time of life right before death. What to do with the weeks, months or years that remain? Mild-mannered Fanda (Vlastimil Brodsky), who used to do some acting, has decided to assume various identities, see where it lands him. This can be as harmless as convincing an old man in a cemetery that he, Fanda, is the old man's former best friend. (He ends up giving the man some money to buy flowers for his wife's grave.) Or it can be as semi-serious as impersonating an opera conductor so as to be escorted around a mansion that's come on the market. (And if the real estate firm throws in a free brunch and limo ride, so much the better.) Basically, Fanda's a con artist, but what he's really trying to do is cheat death, pull the wool over the Grim Reaper's eyes.

One small problem: Lately, Fanda's reflexes have started to go, which means he gets caught more often. And his wife, Emilie (Stella Zazvorkova), has had it up to here with his Walter Mitty routines. Straight out of a James Thurber cartoon, Emilie has both feet on the ground, if not six feet under. She's so practical that she's already purchased the pair of black shoes Fanda will be wearing into eternity. But is Emilie facing death head-on, or is she as deluded as Fanta -- tending to the details so as to avoid the big picture? The performances of these two are immensely enjoyable, and it's just nice to see actual old people, with their old faces, up on the screen. Michalek allows the movie to shuffle along, but we never feel like we're not going to get there, wherever "there" ends up being. A sad note: After filming was completed, Brodsky, who'd had a stroke, took his own life, thereby casting a dark shadow over this strangely cheerful film.

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