Monday, July 10, 2006
Setting a comic film in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia might seem odd, but the novel was written by Bohumil Hrabal, whose works often wrench a bittersweet appreciation of life out of awful circumstances. The film Closely Watched Trains captures Hrabal's spirit with fun cinema tricks like incongruous music (an example: the SS capture our hero for interrogation, and instead of the stereotypical Nazi flick set-up a cheerful waltz plays and the camera lingers lovingly over beautiful scenic vistas). There are also numerous visual puns.
Milos becomes a trainee guard at a remote local station where there's little to do. His great desire in life is to lose his virginity, but despite the fact adorable Masa is practically giving it away, Milos fails again and again. Meanwhile his older co-worker lays everyone in sight, and even German patrols get lucky when they come through town. Milos despairs of success and is diagnosed as suffering from "premature ejaculation." He sets out on a dual quest to find an older woman to teach him the arts of love and to become active in the Czech resistance. A funny, touching, and surprisingly erotic film.
Renoir's Grand Illusion skewered upper-crust attitudes about chivalry and nobility during WWI. Les règles du jeu attacks social conventions of the French upper class, including its moral hypocrisies, its 'discretion,' its appetites. At times as crazy and uninhibited and silly-smart as a Marx Brothers classic (with superior direction), this comedy takes surprisingly tragic turns.