Closely Watched Trains (1967) is one of the most popular of Czechoslovak films, and it should be. Somehow director Miri Menzel manages to maintain a witty ironic tone throughout the picture, even though its subject is the German occupation during World War II. Menzel, who both wrote and directed the film, centers events around a quiet young lad (Vaclav Neckar) who is at a perceptive, uneasy stage in his adolescence. He works at a railway station--the "closely watched trains" were the German munitions trains which had special priority.
Lemonade Joe (1964), another film from Czechoslovakia, made by Oldrich Lipsky, is a parody of an American western. Filmmakers of all countries seem to go through a period where they have to imitate old films. This one not only has a character named Lemonade Joe, but also offers Winifred Goodman, Horace Badman, and Tornado Lou.
The Fire Within played for one week in New York ten years ago, and it hasn't been back since. Minor legends have grown up about it, and many people say it is Louis Malle's finest film. Harvard Square didn't get its print in time for advance screening, so I haven't seen it, but Malle's other films, such as Murmur of the Heart and Phantom India, are so outstanding that this study of a former alcoholic contemplating suicide should be well worth seeing. Bernardo Bertolucci's Partner, featured on the same bill, is another old film being shown here for the first time. It was shown once at the 1968 New York Film Festival, but for some reason it was never released commercially here before. (See review on page two.)
Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick's mad nuclear vision starring Peter Sellers in three roles, can be seen this week on the big screen at Orson Welles (for $2.50) or on a little box for free on Friday. Sounds like somebody at the Welles messed up somewhere. TV seriously diminishes the visual impact of movies, but I'd still save my money and see I.F. Stone at the Welles instead.
A Night at the Opera is one of the two or three funniest movies the Marx brothers ever made. Everyone loves the scene where more and more people are shoved into Groucho's "stateroom," or the Take-Me-Out-to-the-Ballgame interlude at the opera. That funny foreign language the brothers speak before a throng in New York is the soundtrack running backwards, but the New Yorkers couldn't tell. Vesti la Giubba is the aria from Pagllacci that Groucho is always humming (It was also Caruso's most popular record.). Don't forget the two hard-boiled eggs.