The American weekly Time magazine has just published a list of the 100 best films ever, compiled by its two much-respected film critics Richard Schickel and Richard Corliss. The list, which includes such American classics as The Godfather and Pulp Fiction, is well-balanced, containing many non—US titles, among them 'Closely Watched Trains' -one of only three Czech films to ever earn the Best Foreign-Language Oscar.
Made in 1966, 'Closely Watched Trains' is generally considered a small masterpiece by both Czech and foreign audiences the coming of age story of a shy young man in wartime, who longs for love but sacrifices his life in a futile mission against the Nazi occupiers. Based on Bohumil Hrabal's novel of the same name, the film drew rave reviews in the 60s and continues to enjoy a great following today. We caught up with fim historian Karel Och:
"The most beautiful thing on the film for me is this sort of intimacy which goes together with the main character. And all the things that are happening to him are sort of by coincidence, but actually describe the most important things in life. He is not sort of a likeable young man, he is very, very ordinary, very unglamorous, let's say. But, there's this gentle way of showing him, and all the absurd things that happen to him, which is very universal."
The loss of innocence and absurdity where characteristic of Hrabal, who also contributed to the final screenplay. Following the success of 'Closely Watched Trains' Hrabal and Menzel collaborated on several notable screen adaptations in the 70's, but never got around to Hrabal's seminal "I Served the King of England". Jiri Menzel, after a long hiatus, is getting set to make that film that now, something many film fans are looking forward to with great anticipation. Karel Och again:
"Jiri Menzel sort of disappeared, I mean it's been a long time since his last film, and as we can see a lot filmmakers who were successful in the 60s changed a lot and maybe their films are no longer as successful as they were before. It's one of Hrabal's most beautiful books, so it will be a tough task."
If anyone is up to it, it should be Jiri Menzel, who adapted more of Hrabal's work anyone else. The only shame is that Hrabal himself could not live to see it.
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