At a village railway station in occupied Czechoslovakia, a bumbling dispatcher’s apprentice longs to liberate himself from his virginity. Oblivious to the war and the resistance that surrounds him, this young man embarks on a journey of sexual awakening and self-discovery, encountering a universe of frustration, eroticism, and adventure within his sleepy backwater depot. Wry and tender, Academy Award™-winning Closely Watched Trains is a masterpiece of human observation and one of the best-loved films of the Czech New Wave. —The Criterion Collection
With his debut feature film Closely Watched Trains (1966), Czechoslovakian filmmaker Jirí Menzel became an important member in Czech New Wave cinema and won an Academy Award. Menzel started out as an assistant director and occasional actor for Vera Chytilova following his graduation from the Prague film school F.A.M.U. In 1965, Menzel directed an episode (“The Death of Mr. Baltazar”) for the feature anthology Pearls of the Deep, a tribute to distinguished Czech author Bohumil Hrabal. Later that year, he contributed an episode in a similar tribute to the writings of Josef Skvorecky, Crime at the Girls School. Following the success of Closely Watched Trains, Menzel directed Capricious Summer (1968) and turned in a great performance as a tightrope walker (Menzel is actually an accomplished balancer and performs regularly on-stage). In 1969, he made Larks on a String, considered by many to be his best work. Unfortunately, its critical stance on Communism led to its being banned from release… read more
More of a 3 1/2 than a 3 star rating, I found that this seminal piece of Czech New Wave has an astoundingly strong first act and fairly weak third. It has moments of greatness and certainly piqued my interest in this particular wave of Euro Cinema. I would say it's worth checking out. It's a great coming of age film.
Overall the story was a little uneven. It had a different sense of humor than I’m used to, but I did find it to be very funny. It’s a foreign film in black and white set during WWII, in some ways a… read review
I have to admit the ending was quite predictable to me. I blame that on watching way too many other movies that pull off similar feats; but with that aside I couldn’t find anything else in the film… read review