Closely Watched Trains

1966 comedic war drama

Rating: 18/20

Plot: A kid follows in the footsteps of his father to take on the lazy life of a railroad worker. After some troubling premature ejaculation during his first sexual encounter, he attempts suicide but fails at that, too. He tries to work out those problems while war rages on in Europe.

Ahh, I just realized that poster has an ass on it. A stamped ass! That's a depiction of a great scene, but this is a movie made up of all kinds of great scenes. There's an awkward sexual encounter, appropriately since this is a cumming-of-age movie; an odd bit involving some paintings; a climax that is chilling in how nonchalantly that part of the story is told; a lovely shot that involves the young protagonist chasing a train; several conspicuous phallic symbols, my favorite involving an old woman and a goose; near kisses; a perfect not-so-innocent gaze on a face that looks completely innocent; such a quiet scene with horny Nazis; a giggling mentor, demonstrating perhaps that Czechs really were just laughing animals; a terrific portrait of the main character's hypnotist relative.

This is a war movie that isn't really a war movie. The characters, almost all who would be worth following around for their own movie, are too preoccupied with other things for this to be a real war movie. There just happens to be a war going on in the background. And the way all those preoccupations, seemingly incongruous, bounce off each other and work to set unexpected things in motion, the idea being that it's the little things--a stamp fetish, for example--that can thrust somebody into historical relevance.

Like a lot of great movies, its Closely Watched Trains' combination of simplicity and depth that make it stunning. And, I think, it has a special brand of dark humor that makes it seem ahead of its time. It's really a wonderful movie.

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