Ostre sledované vlaky (1966)
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Funny and serious at the same time. Comedy and tragedy in one movie.
Very good. But to understand film one needs to feel like its characters.
And it's very Czech movie.
When I watched Jiří Menzel's Capricious Summer the other day, I thought the humor was odd. His first (and Oscar-winning) feature, Closely Watched Trains, is more traditionally funny. Set during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia (but no doubt criticizing the Communist regime at the same time), our man Milos is by design a version of "The Good Soldier", from a family of "Good Soldiers", a character whose artful evasion of duty is apparently representative of the Czech national character. The film is really about impotence. Milos', who is despondent when he fails to make it with his girlfriend and watches trains go by without ever having ridden one (and when the Nazis put him on a train, they throw him off being going anywhere, and then there's the equally short trip in the climax). All acts of rebellion against the German regime are futile gestures in the end. So this to me is very much about the country itself, a country that had been under the thumb of other powers for as long as anyone remembered (Austria, Germany, the USSR), and powerless to do anything about it. Even the amusing subplot about the cousin sleeping with every girl in town and rubber-stamping them seems to speak to that idea of having several mistresses in succession. With a lot of comically erotic imagery (a hole in a couch, the neck of goose, etc.) and an older generation obsessed with the decline of morals, this is a sex comedy that's really about national character, of the kind Menzel could only make during the relaxed period that gave us the Czech New Wave.
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In 14 official lists
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This movie ranks #8 in Golden Foundation of Czech and Slovak Cinema
This movie ranks #20 in Academy Award Best Foreign Pictures
This movie ranks #34 in Stanley Kubrick, Cinephile
This movie ranks #45 in 101 War Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #54 in The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema
This movie ranks #64 in Academy Award Best Foreign Language Film Nominees
This movie ranks #134 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #187 in UNESCO's Memory of the World: National Cinematic Heritage
This movie ranks #224 in Film Comedy
This movie ranks #401 in Sight and Sound 2012 - Combined List
This movie ranks #453 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #461 in They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?
This movie ranks #672 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #741 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown