04/24/2014  
One Direction: Reaching for the Stars Part 2 - The Next Chapter on DVD/VOD May 13Shelter Island on DVD May 13Pennsylvania Ballet at 50 on DVD May 13Flying Tigers & Home of the Brave on Blu-ray & DVD May 13Stalingrad on Two-Disc Blu-ray with 3D, DVD & Digital May 13The Dave Clark Five And Beyond: Glad All Over on DVD & Blu-ray May 13Longmire: Season 2 on DVD May 13

follow us on twitter

dOc on facebook

NE News Editor

Miley Cyrus Makes Time's 100 Most Influential People; D...
VIDEO: COLBERT Declares 'I've Won Television' on Jon St...
'The Voice' Recap: Bottom Three Plead for Viewers' Save...
Stephen Colbert visits David Letterman and new 'Late Sh...
Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o named People's most beautif...

JB Joseph Burke

The Answer to American Idol's Problems Is......
CONCRETE BLONDES...
CREAM FAREWELL CONCERT...
JACK REACHER...
MANBORG...

CA Chuck Aliaga

CORRUPTION (BLU-RAY)...
THE ATTACK (BLU-RAY)...
TANK GIRL (BLU-RAY)...
HORROR STORIES...
THE UNINVITED (BLU-RAY)...

RR Rich Rosell

THE GIRL...
THE HORDE...
LIFE IS SWEET (BLU-RAY)...
SHOUT AT THE DEVIL (BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO)...
THE BLUE ANGEL (BLU-RAY)...

MZ Mark Zimmer

BABY PEGGY: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM...
STORAGE WARS: VOLUME THREE...
Take Part in a Film Restoration...
THE 39 STEPS (BLU-RAY)...
DARK SHADOWS: THE BEST OF BARNABAS...

JS Jesse Shanks

2 BROKE GIRLS...
DOWNTON ABBEY SEASONS ONE & TWO LIMITED EDITION...
FLORENCE AND THE SPIRIT OF THE RENAISSANCE...
NAZI COLLABORATORS...
KATT WILLIAMS: KATTPACALYPSE...

RJ Ross Johnson

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (BLU-RAY)...
PURPLE NOON (BLU-RAY)...
WEEKEND (BLU-RAY)...
JUAN OF THE DEAD...
THE DEVIL'S NEEDLE AND OTHER TALES OF VICE AND REDEMPTI...

JD Jon Danziger

SUNSET BOULEVARD...
SALO, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM...
TABLOID...
CUL-DE-SAC...
3 WOMEN...

JC Joel Cunningham

YOJIMBO/SANJURO...
SUMMER HOURS (L'heure d'╚t╚)...
WIZARD OF OZ...
WINGS OF DESIRE...
HORTON HEARS A WHO!...

DH Dan Heaton

REVANCHE...
LAST DAYS OF DISCO...
NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS...
STARGATE SG-1: CHILDREN OF THE GODS...
STARGATE ATLANTIS: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON...

MS Matt Serafini

THE STEPFATHER...
THE HILLS RUN RED...
MANAGEMENT...
NIGHT OF DEATH...
GNAW...

KC Kevin Clemons

Freddy Got Fingered...

JU Jeff Ulmer

Secure The Second Season of The Border on DVD August 25...
THE WALTONS: THE COMPLETE 9TH SEASON...
Dance Me Outside kicks onto DVD May 6, 2008...

DD Dale Dobson

Film-Fest 4: Sundance 2000 & Hawaii...

RM Robert Mandel

Saving Private Ryan...

Share: email   Print      Technorati.gif   StumbleUpon.gif   MySpace   digg.gif delicious.gif   google.gif   magnolia.gif   facebook.gif
Permalink: Permalink.gif



Buy from Amazon

Buy from Amazon.com

The Criterion Collection presents
Closely Watched Trains (Ostre sledovane vlaky) (1966)

"The entire town knows that I want to be a train dispatcher for the simple reason that I don't want to do anything—just like my ancestors—but stand on the platform with a signal disc and avoid any hard work, while others have to drudge and toil."
- Milos Hrma (VĚclav NeckĚr)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: October 19, 2001

Stars: VĚclav NeckĚr, Josef Somr, Vlastimil Brodsky, Vladim╠r Valenta
Other Stars: Alois Vachek, Ferdinand Kruta, Jitka BendovĚ, Jitka ZelenohorskĚ, Nada UrbĚnkovĚ, Libuse HavelkovĚ, Kveta FialovĚ, Pavla MarsĚlkovĚ, Marie JezkovĚ, Zuzana Minichova, VĚclav Fiser
Director: Jiri Menzel

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (Adult situations)
Run Time: 01h:33m:25s
Release Date: September 18, 2001
UPC: 037429161524
Genre: foreign


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AB+B+ D+

DVD Review

Director Jiri Menzel made an auspicious feature film debut with his 1966 Closely Watched Trains (Ostre sledovane vlaky), claiming only the second ever Best Foreign Language Film Oscar® won by a Czechoslovakian, following Jan Kadar's The Shop on Main Street (Obchod na korze), which took the first, two years earlier. A graduate of the Czech film school FAMU, Menzel was instrumental the the 1960s Czech New Wave, both as a director and as an actor in films by his contemporaries. His films focus on the "nobody," examining the paradoxes that make up the common man, with a wry wit and tragic humor; but unlike some of his fellow graduates such as Jan Nemec, Milos Forman, and Ivan Passer, his tone was much less cynical. His film career was suspended in 1969 after the Soviet invasion, and Menzel was forbidden from making films until 1975, when he was forced to renounce the "mistakes" of earlier films. The cause, his Larks on a String (Skrivanci na niti) and its anti-communist theme, was banned by the authorities for 21 years. Menzel would come to the attention of the Academy again in 1985 with another Best Foreign Language Film nomination for My Sweet Little Village (Vesnicko ma stoediskova).

Based on the novel by Bohumil Hrabal, who would become his frequent collaborator, Closely Watched Trains takes place in 1944, at a remote country rail station in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. Here, young Milos Hrma (VĚclav NeckĚr) takes a job as a rail guard trainee, following a long family tradition of avoiding laborious work. His father was a conductor, retired early and now living off a pension; his grandfather was killed when he, single-handedly, tried to stop the German advance into Prague through hypnotism. Now, Milos will learn the trade of train dispatcher, making sure the trains don't crash, and being especially careful with the "closely watched" trains carrying troops and munitions to the German frontline.

Despite his country being entrenched in war, the concerns Milos has are centered around his unsuccessful relationship with women. Though Milos has the attentions of a young conducteress (Jitka BendovĚ as Masa), he is fascinated by the ability of train dispatcher Hubicka (Josef Somr) to seduce and behave around women, as much as this behaviour vexes the stationmaster, Max (Vladim╠r Valenta). Milos is at a loss to understand how he should perform in the presence of the opposite sex, especially after a particularly embarrassing incident that leaves him quite distraught. His awkward attempts to rectify the situation result in a series of mishaps, engaging all around him, who themselves are absorbed in their own personal business, seemingly unaffected by the global conflict being waged only a few miles up the tracks. The outside world fails to derail the young boy's focus on losing his virginity, which is the only cause with any significance in his existence.

Menzel does a fantastic job of maintaining a credible yet incredible plotline intact (look for his cameo as Dr. Brabec). VĚclav NeckĚr's innocent involvement in the events in his life are portrayed without flaw, as are those of his accomplices. The black & white cinematography is wonderful, despite being limited to scenes mostly in and around the station. The film's music perfectly underscores the mood on screen. The pace is very easy going, and the editing maximizes the comic potential, without over doing it. Closely Watched Trains is littered with humor, from the local German authority, Counselor Zednicek (Vlastimil Brodsky), explaining the brilliance in strategy of German retreat from all fronts, to an incident involving office supplies and a young telegrapher at the stationˇsurely a first for seduction cinema. The deceptive cheekiness of the film belies what will eventually unfold, but we are witness to the absurdities of daily life from which Milos hopes to extract the rules of being an adult. Where his journey will take him is not obvious from the start, but the getting there makes for some very amusing cinema.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Despite a few signs of age, Criterion delivers a wonderful-looking transfer, with beautiful grayscale rendition. The worst source defects are in the beginning, with a persistent bit of streaking, after which the image gets progressively better. Grain is tight and natural, detail is crisp without being over enhanced. There are a few aliasing issues due to the complexity of some of the shots, but overall this looks fantastic.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoCzech/Germanno


Audio Transfer Review: Besides one or two instances in which the score begins to distort, the mono soundtrack sounds fitting for a film of this vintage. Hiss and other major defects are minimal.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: One of Criterion's movie-only discs, the US theatrical trailer is the only on disc extra. An essay on the film is included in a bright yellow leaflet.

I would note that, at least on my player, subtitles default to "off" when the film is started.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

Another worthy addition to the Criterion Collection, Jiri Menzel's Closely Watched Trains is a funny and fascinating slice of life, following the escapades of a young rail station trainee in a wonderful coming of age film. Rich characters and situations that border on the absurd, fill this sweetly humanistic look at German-occupied Czechoslovakia. If this is in any way indicative of Menzel's work or other Czech films, I look forward to discovering more. Recommended.

 


Back to top

Search 10,000+ titles:

or Advanced Search

DVD REVIEW ARCHIVE


Get FREE Shipping on all orders at TimeLife.com! - 120x90

 





Covered California

Keywords

television, music, miley cyrus, time magazine, dolly parton, wrecking ball, late night, stephen colbert, the colbert report, jon stewart, the daily show, comedy central, cbs, late show, the voice, vocal competition, carson daly, twitter, usher, t.j. wilkins, shakira, tess boyer, dani moz, david letterman, celebrity, lupita nyong'o, people mangazine, academy award, 12 years a slave, steve mcqueen, biography, documentary, box office, movies, good morning america, abc, lara spencer, josh elliot, nbc sports, george stephanopolous, robin roberts, movie, heaven is for real, connor corum, greg kinnear, thomas haden, books, gabriel garcia marquez, nobel laureate, one hundred years of solitude, war, cannes film festival, grace of monaco, nicole kidman, kristen stewart, robert pattinson, maps to the stars, julianne moore, foxcatcher, the homesman, tommy lee jones, hilary swank, mrs. doubtfire, robin williams, fox 2000, chris columbus, david berenhaum, drama, brad pitt, general stanley mcchrystal, the operators, afghanistan war film, david michod, gone girl gillian flynn, ben affleck, rosamund pike, elvis costello, she, nine inch nails, trent reznor, atticus ross, gone girl's score, ultimate warrior, james hellwig, wrestler, heart disease, world wrestling entertainment hall of fame, animation, hbo, game of thrones, jack gleeson, king joffrey baratheon, the purple wedding, horror

On Kindle!
On Facbook!
digitallyOBSESSED!
digitallyOBSESSED!
Promote Your Page Too
Become a Reviewer | Search | Review Vault | Reviewers
Readers | Webmasters | Privacy | Contact