Jan Dite is short in height, but high in ambition. To put it bluntly, the young provincial waiter wants to become a millionaire. And he knows just how to do it: by hearing everything, seeing everything, and using it.
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A witty comedy with a cynic approach on the most important issues for men: money, power and young women. The storytelling jokes on human condition, capitalism, nazism as well as the life of the main character which is portrayed as a series of situation frames.The openness on so sensitive issues brought some sarcasm to the narrative. The cinematography deserves to be quoted due to the amazing scenarios it produced.
A short waiter's rise to and fall from financial success while Czechoslovakia goes through WWII and the 1948 coup. Director Menzel goes back to adapting Bohumil Hrabal in a whimsical parable that always finds a gracefully detached way to depict greed, corruption, war and disillusionment. A sexy, endearing and consistently inventive romp.
It was the first time I remember seeing the lead character being a anti-hero that makes an incredible bad choice: he is a collaborationist during the nazi regime. The screenplay is able to make humour in which the nazis are not made fun by exagerating their bad character, violence, or other villain traits, which is usually the correct way to make humour. Instead, it plays with arian clichés and myths, brilliantly.
In 2006 Jiri Menzel added another strong entry to his body of work with this tongue in cheek story of a Czech looking back on his youth and his experiences through WWII which eventually led him to imprisonment. A study of manners, greed, selfishness and the political winds of change. Ranks amongst Menzel's best ( 'Closely Watched Trains', 'My Sweet Little Villiage', 'Larks on a String').
Even if one likes it or not, this movie is and will remain a masterpiece. Beautiful and subtle, treating historical dramas with irony and humor, depicting lives of simple people, not heroes. A wonderful novel inspired a great director to create an outstanding film.