Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Screening ... Jiri Menzel's latest gem

I started a film program yesterday for the Johns Hopkins University Odyssey program, showing five films that have been recent festival favorites. I’m delighted that the first offering, I Served the King of England, received applause from the audience. And why not?

Jiri Menzel’s (Yizeh MEN-zel) 2006 film captures all the social satire and wry humor of novelist Bohumil Hrabal’s 1971 novel, the last of six of Hrabal’s very popular books Menzel brought to the screen, beginning with the 1966 Closely Watched Trains, which won the 1967 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Menzel sprinkles this story of a diminutive opportunist, whose single goal in life is to be a millionaire hotelier, with Chaplinesque moments of near slapstick and pathos. But it’s the shared sense of irony that makes the Menzel/Hrabal collaboration so appealing, insightful and entertaining.  

This is a beautifully realized film that should be seen as a double feature with Closely Watched Trains.

Next up in the series (Oct. 24) is Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Uzak (Distant). You can read more about Ceylan in an earlier blog.

1 comment:

  1. I watched this film on my own and LOVED it! I'm so sorry I missed the class discussion about it. "I Served the King of England" is both familiar and unfamiliar to me...more specifically, it reminds me of Chaplin's movies, as Steve noted in his commentary, but it is also unlike any other film I have seen previously. Further, it deftly mixes comedy and tragedy, something American filmmakers don't seem to be able to achieve. The cinematography is beautiful and makes the sets come alive; in fact, the hotel and restaurant that are primarily featured in this film are like other characters that shadow the protagonist's (Jan Dite's) life, from the their great moments of glory to their final demise. The actor who plays the young Jan, Ivan Barnev, is a marvel with his perfect comedic timing. His performance is one that I'll remember for a long time and will want to watch again and again. I'm so glad to have experienced this film!